Greg M. Cooper/US Presswire
Avery Bradley is playing with renewed confidence, but still waiting on his jumper.BOSTON -- Celtics coach Doc Rivers knows it's hard for some to believe based on what they've seen, but he's downright adamant when he suggests that Avery Bradley can be a consistent jump shooter.
"Avery’s a better shooter than what he's shot, and we can’t figure it out, honestly," said Rivers. "He makes them in practice, he makes them in the gym when he’s working out. The only guess is that the game is still a little too fast for him. And, at some point, a ball will go in, he’ll slow down, and he’ll make the in-between jump shot. Because that’s what he can make and he can make that consistently."
Here are the sobering facts: In 48 NBA appearances, Bradley is a mere 18 for 91 from beyond 3 feet (19.8 percent), according to HoopData. He's 1 for 10 (10 percent) from 3-to-9 feet; 0 for 6 from 10-to-15 feet; 16 for 59 (27.1 percent) from 16-to-23 feet; and 1 for 16 (6.3 percent) from beyond the 3-point arc.
And it's not just the misses, it's how he's missed at times. Some of Bradley's jumpers have been unsightly at times, inspiring even less confidence than if shots simply weren't going down.
According to Synergy Sports data, Bradley is averaging a mere .535 points per play on jump shots this season, ranking in the 8th percentile among all players. He's shooting a mere 25.6 percent (11 for 43) on jumpers this year. That's far from ideal for a player the Celtics have sometimes envisioned as a potential backup shooting guard (consider that starter Ray Allen is averaging 1.283 points per play on jump shots this season, ranking in the 98th percentile and shooting 48.1 percent on jumpers).
With Rajon Rondo sidelined with a right wrist injury, Bradley has started the last six games and received additional court time. He's responded by averaging 5.8 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1.2 steals over 31.3 minutes per contest.
During that stretch, the Celtics have seen exactly what a pest Bradley can be to opposing ball-handlers and it might have helped him secure a more consistent role as the backup point guard (especially with the team's desire to move Keyon Dooling off the ball more often when he's healthy).
But Rivers and his staff were likely hoping the 188 minutes of floor time over the last 10 days would also allow Bradley to work his way through his shooting woes. He made 3-of-6 shots from 16-to-23 feet while chipping in 10 points in his first start against Phoenix. Since then he's connected on just 3-of-16 shots from that range (and is 0 for 6 on all other shots beyond 3 feet during that span).
It's not all bad news for Bradley. He's found ways to produce offensively while on the floor, utilizing his speed to thrive both in transition and off cuts (his ability to sneak behind the defense on the baseline and finish around the basket has helped him produce 9-of-15 shooting (60 percent) at the rim during his six starts.
What's more, Bradley currently ranks in the 99th percentile among all players in averaging 1.7 points per play in transition, according to Synergy. His speed can be a real asset on both ends of the court.
Now he just needs that shot to fall. And Rivers is about ready to call in Robert Stack to help solve that mystery.
The daunting part for Bradley is that Rajon Rondo is nearing a return -- Rivers said there's a chance he could be on the floor Tuesday night in Cleveland -- which would push Bradley back to a reserve role. When Dooling gets healthy (he's battled an ailing right knee and a hip pointer this month), that could further cut into Bradley's time.
Both Bradley and rookie E'Twaun Moore, whose offense is ahead of his defense but has shown an ability to confidently run the second-team offense, will have to figure out how to progress without the benefit of the safety net that big minutes afford.
"If you look around the league and you look at a lot of players that get a lot of shots, you can work your way into a great flow, you can work your way into confidence, and if you're getting 19 shots a game, you can be 9-for-19, and you'd have missed 10 shots that game -- and 10 shots for any one of us to miss is a bad night for the team -- [but] around the league you look at it and you see guys, they miss 10 shots and they've got, possibly, 30 [points] that night," explained Allen, the team's resident shooting pro. "So it does give Avery confidence that he knows he's going to be in the game and he's going to be able to play through some things."
The key for Bradley is likely to just keep shooting. Rivers is adamant that shot is going to fall eventually. Even if you probably don't believe him at the moment.