The Defensive Revival: Bradley’s impact on Bass and Wilcox


Rob Mahoney of SI.com, explains the positive impact of Avery Bradley on the defensive weak links in the Celtics front-court, Brandon Bass and Chris Wilcox:

It makes more sense to attribute Boston’s defensive improvement to Avery Bradley, who has picked up right where he left off last season. Bradley, who suffered a season-ending shoulder injury at the end of last season, stalls ball handlers, throws opponents out of rhythm while executing their set plays, trails well around screens and has a great understanding of which way he can funnel his man. All of that makes him a great individual defender, but an even more important asset when paired with the likes of Brandon Bass or Chris Wilcox.

Boston has struggled through much of the season whenever Kevin Garnett stepped off the floor, and suffered an added loss when Jared Sullinger — the Celtics’ second-most effective big this season — went down for the year. His absence meant that Rivers had little choice but to rely heavily on Bass and/or Wilcox, defensive limitations be damned. Yet almost 20 games into Boston’s revival, Bass and Wilcox both are filling vital minutes and defending far better than expected. They each deserve credit for the positive trend in their performance, but Bradley makes the job of both players easier by gambling less often than Rondo and allowing fewer dribble-penetrators to attack the basket. Bass and Wilcox have been better, but it’s Bradley’s perimeter defense that reduces the number of times that either big has to rotate to help. When Bass or Wilcox are forced to help and protect the rim on play after play (as was the case with Boston’s second unit earlier this season), then the team’s overall defensive performance will inevitably suffer. But when a player like Bradley can stop a ball handler in his tracks and wall off the paint, then the number of situations in which Bass and Wilcox can be exploited shrinks significantly:

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Defensive rating (DefRtg) represents the points allowed by the Celtics per 100 possessions — the lower the better.

Bradley may not be seen as a transformational defender, but the trickle-down effects of adding a staunch perimeter stopper makes things far more comfortable for the rest of the Celtics’ lineup. Jason Terry is saved from unfavorable matchups and Courtney Lee can be assigned to defensive marks more judiciously. The season-ending injuries to Rondo and Keyon Dooling are hedged by Bradley’s increased workload. Any 1-2 or 1-3 pick-and-rolls that opponents run can be handled more effectively, as Bradley can hound opposing wing players off the dribble and fight for position if they attempt to post him up. Garnett can rest for certain stretches because Bradley makes it easier for Rivers to rely on his second-unit bigs.

 

Here is Mahoney’s article in its entirety: http://nba.si.com/2013/03/12/boston-celtics-avery-bradley-kevin-garnett-rajon-rondo/

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