The Boston Celtics overcame the Charlotte Bobcats, in Charlotte, last night by 94 points to 82. Now beating the Bobcats is rarely anything to write about, however the Celtics did comfortably get the victory in what was being called by many an exhibition game without their "Big Three."
Instead of relying on the shooting of Paul Pierce and Ray Allen with Kevin Garnett marshaling the team inside, Doc Rivers' side instead got 16 assists and 20 points from their star point guard who continues his season of sticking it to each of his doubters.
Rajon Rondo played 43 minutes to get that stat line, but it certainly wasn't a one man show in Charlotte last night.
Brandon Bass led all scoring with 22 points in 37 minutes, but most significantly, he was tied by shooting guard Avery Bradley who notched 22 points in 35 minutes. While Bass had previously proved himself as a capable starting forward in Orlando, Bradley entered this season with hopes rather than expectations.
Bradley was drafted by the Celtics in 2010 as a 19 year old out of Texas. After being taken with the 19th pick, expectations were never too high for the developmental prospect. Bradley was seen early on as a backup point guard because of his lack of offensive explosion.
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Much like former Celtics player and current Memphis Grizzlie Tony Allen, the Celtics saw Bradley as a defensive specialist who could come in and give the team quality minutes as a role player.
He made very little impact as a rookie playing in 31 games and averaging 5.2 minutes per game. Offensively, he finished the season with a 10-16 shooting game against the New York Knicks peaking for the season with 20 points in 27 minutes. However, after that he was slotted straight back onto the bench for the playoffs where he remained.
This season continued in a similar vane for Bradley as he barely didn't find a prominent role in the team until injuries gave him a starting berth.
During April, Bradley has averaged 13.6 points per game in 32.7 minutes per game. He is shooting 51 percent from the field and 62 percent from behind the arc. His performances have been so good that Ray Allen, at his own instigation, has become the team's sixth man coming from the bench.
Passed the numbers, Bradley is a lock-down defender who gives the Celtics a viable duo at guard in terms of athleticism. While Ray Allen can run all day, he is not the physical specimen that Rondo or Bradley are these days because of his age. Allen is much better suited to come off the bench and lead the second unit while also playing in crunch time.
Bradley's knock-on effect on the Celtics' current title ambitions is massive. His presence in the lineup has been huge for the team's improvement since the all-star break.
Whether the Celtics make waves in the playoffs or not this year, Bradley's emergence will have a huge bearing on the team's future fortunes. Bradley won't turn 22 until November 26th this year. With that kind of youth on his side, both he and Rajon Rondo can form a quality partnership together for the team on the outside for the next five years.
Rondo himself is only 26 and won't turn 27 until February next year. He has proved that the Celtics were wrong to entertain the idea of trading him with his displays this season.
While nothing is guaranteed or consistent in this world, Bradley's emergence makes the Celtics' future look a lot brighter than it did entering the season. With Bradley and Rondo set as starters, and Ray Allen taking to his new role potentially making it possible for him to return after this season, the team would be all but set on the perimeter.
Inside, Kevin Garnett has not got long left to be a starting center. He may be playing well this season, but it would be unrealistic to ask him to be the team's starting center or even power forward going forward.
Garnett likely won't return as that cap space will be used to find a legitimate big man inside.
Finding a big man is the team's only gaping hole going forward next season. Ray Allen may not return, but it's easier to find a quality sixth man than find a starting center. Outside of center however, the base is in place to build a championship caliber side.
Jeff Green should return next season to create a formidable duo at power forward with Brandon Bass. Bass is only 26 and is proving to be a quality starter in Boston, much like he was in Orlando. With Green, Bass and Greg Stiemsma,who is also only 26, the team has enough quality bigmen outside of finding a starter at the five position.
Throw in the fact that Paul Pierce is tied down for the foreseeable future and Doc Rivers has plenty of talent to work with and try to add to an already bulging trophy case in Boston.
Being that they will likely have no shot at finding a quality big man in next year's draft, because of their regular season record, the Celtics could look to add a small forward to groom as Pierce's eventual replacement.
However the Boston Celtics season ends this year, the emergence of Avery Bradley should prove vital for the team's championship prospects over the coming years.