Avery Bradley turns 20 years old today. And like most 20 year-olds, Bradley will be hoping to receive more minutes in an NBA rotation for his birthday. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to get them.
As Danny Ainge indicated yesterday (see Ryan’s notebook below), the Celtics are not going to be making any roster moves to offset Delonte West’s wrist injury. The team is satisfied with the players it has and does not want to let anybody go to make room for a newcomer. Good news for Bradley. But according to Doc after Wednesday’s game, West’s status won’t necessarily lead to more minutes for the rookie:
I was talking about it today for Avery. Avery’s played – I think (Assistant Coach) Lawrence (Frank) or (Assistant Coach) Kevin Eastman said he’s been through three full practices this season, including training camp. And he’s a rookie, and we’re going to throw him on the floor. So we may, at times, but we’ve just got to protect him. We don’t want to ruin him. And he’s not healthy, yet. Not great health. So, it’s what we have.
Ah yes. A classic case of “How To Bring Along Your NBA Rookie.”
There is no question that Bradley has talent. He was the #1 ranked player in his 2009 class according to ESPNU. He started every game at Texas as a freshman and averaged 11.6 points per game. And he was considered one of the best defensive guards in the entire nation. But he was terribly inconsistent and ultimately that’s why he slipped all the way to the 19th pick in the NBA Draft.
Doc’s track record would indicate that Bradley is not going to see the floor all that much this year. Since Doc arrived in Boston for the 2004-05 season, here are some notable Celtics’ guards and the minutes they logged in their rookie seasons:
Delonte West (2004-05): 13 minutes per game
Tony Allen (2004-05): 16.4 minutes
Gerald Green(2005-06): 11.5 minutes
Rajon Rondo (2006-07): 23.5 minutes
Gabe Pruitt (2007-08): 6.3 minutes
J.R. Giddens (2008-09): 1.3 minutes
Lester Hudson (2009-10): 4.4 minutes
Take these numbers for what they’re worth, because there are a lot of factors involved (talent being a major one). But looking at them tells me that Doc Rivers isn’t philosophically opposed to playing rookies significant minutes; he’s just opposed to playing rookies on a championship-caliber team.
But Bradley is arguably the best young guard the Celtics have acquired since the arrival of the Big Three. And I think he has a chance to help the Celtics win this season. When healthy, the Celtics are deep at every position, but not necessarily on the defensive side of the ball. As good as Ray Allen, Delonte West and Nate Robinson are offensively, not one is a lock-defender that Bradley has a chance to be.
With Tony Allen gone, could Bradley be the 12-minute-a-night, defensive stopper that every team needs in the playoffs? If you think the answer is yes, then he needs to get some minutes now. As talented and athletic as Bradley may be, you can’t just stick him out on the floor and expect him to understand all the Celtics’ defensive rotations and whatnot. He needs significant playing time during the regular season if he’s going to have any impact for the Celtics down the stretch.
But if Doc ultimately feels that Bradley is still a year or two away, then maybe it better suits this team to give Von Wafer more time, particularly in Delonte’s absence.
As Jessica Camerato writes for CSSNE.com, Bradley has been a little bit frustrated by the entire situation, but understands why he’s here.
“Usually I was starting at every level when I was young,” he said. “But I just take it as a learning process. I’m just excited that I’m even in the NBA and feel blessed to be here. I’m just anxious to get better, and when my chance comes I’ll be ready.”
Let’s hope that chance comes sooner than later.