Avery Bradley arrived last season. He put up career numbers offensively, and his in-your-jersey defense finally earned him an All-Defensive team selection.
While the focus this season is on All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas and his shiny new toy Al Horford, Bradley has quietly been Boston’s best player. The young guard has been even more aggressive, and is now seeing the floor like never before in the pick-and-roll.
The focus of this piece will be Bradley’s pick-and-roll ability, but I’d be remiss not to recognize how stellar he’s been on offense overall.
He’s currently averaging 20.6 points, 8.2 rebounds and four assists — joining LeBron James, Russell Westbrook and Giannis Antetokounmpo as the only four players averaging at least 20 points, eight rebounds and four assists.
Bradley ranked in the 69th percentile in overall offense last season, producing 0.976 points per possession (PPP) on 15.6 possessions per game. Right now, he’s posting 1.084 PPP on 19 possessions a game, ranking in the 83rd percentile.
Bradley has been scorching hot from virtually everywhere on the floor, shooting a career-high 50.6 percent from the field and career-high 48.4 percent from deep on 6.2 attempts per game. Plus, his 60.9 true shooting percentage would easily be the best of his career.
Oddly enough, Bradley’s finishing ability is the area of his game that hasn’t been up to par. After converting 68.4 percent of his attempts inside of six feet last season, he’s only knocked down half of his attempts this year, albeit on an incredibly small sample (12 attempts).
As ridiculous as Bradley has been all over the floor, the most notable improvement in his game has been shown in his playmaking. He’s nearly doubled his assist average from last season (4.0 this year, 2.1 last year), with only a slight uptick in turnovers (2.0 this year, 1.4 last year).
It may be early, but Bradley looks much improved as a ball handler in the pick-and-roll. The numbers certainly back that up.
Bradley is producing 1.35 PPP when shooting off the pick-and-roll. His ability to snipe from the perimeter, combined with his improved handle, has made him difficult to deal with.
When his defender is caught on the high screen, Bradley is able to step into the pull-up jimmy from mid-range he likes so much.
Here’s him draining one against Charlotte:
Here’s another example of a mid-range J, this time against Chicago:
Bradley has made defenders pay when they go under or switch the screen. He doesn’t need much time to get his shot off from deep:
Here, Bradley and Al Horford ran some high PnR action. Marvin Williams was dropping back at the free throw to contain a potential drive, which put more pressure on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist to fight over to cut off Bradley’s airspace. He decided to go under the screen, and was further put out of position by the Horford
block, giving room to splash an easy trey:
Charlotte switched the screen this time, leaving Marvin Williams on an island against Bradley. This wasn’t even bad defense, but again, all he needed was a little bit of room to get off, and knock down, his three-ball.
As a passer, the game has seemingly slowed down for Bradley. He and Tyler Zeller have built nice chemistry in the pick-and-roll early this season:
He’s also been able to find shooters for kick-out passes when defenses collapse on the drive, like here against Chicago:
Bradley is generating 1.214 PPP off his passes in pick-and-roll, placing him in the 85th percentile. More impressively, he has seven assists with zero turnovers so far as a pick-and-roll ball handler. Combining his pick-and-roll possessions as a finisher (taking a shot) or passer, he’s currently producing 1.294 PPP. That puts him in the 98th percentile.
Bradley is still better used off the ball when he’s able to get his Randy Orton on as a cutter (outta nowhere!) or feast on open looks after Isaiah Thomas collapses the defense. A combined 29 percent of his possessions come via spot-ups or cuts, and he’s producing 1.37 PPP.
However, Bradley’s improvement in pick-and-roll is surely encouraging. He showed flashes of being able to create for himself in pick-and-roll last year, and being able to consistently find others makes him harder to deal with, takes pressure off Thomas as a creator and makes the Boston offense more difficult to defend.
All play type stats via Synergy