Quick: Name the youngest player to receive a vote for 2013 Defensive Player of the Year. It wasn't Serge Ibaka, Paul George or Larry Sanders, all of whom are under 25 and have been rewarded with lucrative contract extensions. The answer? Celtics guard Avery Bradley, whose hellish on-ball pressure—quick feet, low stance, active hands, terrific anticipation—earned him five votes (including two for first place), putting him above the likes of Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard.
And now with Boston's blowing up its roster—plus Rajon Rondo's continued absence after right-ACL surgery—the 22-year-old Bradley will see his role expanded. He'll serve as the lead guard on offense and show that his on-the-ball D will work without much back-line support (read: Kevin Garnett).
The good news is that with no pressure to win now, Bradley will have the freedom to blossom on both ends. Ranked ahead of John Wall by some analysts while both were in high school, Bradley has attempted fewer shots combined in three years (947) than the Wizards' point guard did in his rookie season (972). The gutted Celtics will now get the chance to see whether Bradley can 1) consistently turn his quickness into high-percentage opportunities at the rim and 2) develop a more reliable jump shot. If he can learn to do both, it would do wonders for speeding up Boston's rebuilding process.
COACH BRAD STEVENS (1ST SEASON WITH CELTICS)
2012--13 RECORD 41--40 (3RD IN ATLANTIC)
WHAT'S NEW Stevens takes over for Doc Rivers, but he won't have mainstays Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
PROJECTED LINEUP (2012--13 STATS)
PG RAJON RONDO
13.7 PPG; 11.1 APG; 1.8 SPG; 48.4 FG%
SG COURTNEY LEE
7.8 PPG; 2.4 RPG; 46.4 FG%; 37.2 3FG%
SF JEFF GREEN
12.8 PPG; 3.9 RPG; 46.7 FG%; 38.5 3FG%
PF BRANDON BASS
8.7 PPG; 5.2 RPG; 0.8 BPG; 48.6 FG%
C KRIS HUMPHRIES
5.8 PPG; 5.6 RPG; 0.5 BPG; 44.8 FG%
PG AVERY BRADLEY
9.2 PPG; 2.1 APG; 40.2 FG%; 31.7 3FG%
OFFENSIVE REBOUNDS per game by Boston last year, the third lowest in NBA history. It was an improvement, though: The only two worse teams were the Celtics of 2010--11 (7.8) and '11--12 (7.7).
A RIVAL SCOUT SIZES UP THE CELTICS
They have a lot of players, but very few that fit together. That's because the roster wasn't planned out: It was all about getting rid of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and Jason Terry to Brooklyn for the draft picks.... I've got to believe if you want to make a good offer for Rajon Rondo in December [when he is expected back from ACL surgery], you're going to be able to get him. The same is true for Kris Humphries with his expiring contract.... Jeff Green is a point-forward type—he has skills across the board. At times he is passive, and that's probably because he's more a perimeter player than a post-up player. It will be interesting to see what Brad Stevens expects of him on a nightly basis.... Avery Bradley can be a point guard if all you're looking for is someone to initiate the offense and then run off cuts and off screens.... Every year it feels like I'm writing Gerald Wallace off. He's hit the floor so many times, you don't think he's going to get up, but he always does. He is a defensive rebounder who can bust out with the ball and lead the break, finish well in transition and hit the spot-up threes and corner threes.... Humphries would have been a good fit alongside Garnett as a tough rebounder. Humphries runs the floor, and he can catch and shoot from 12 to 15 feet. He's not a back-to-the-basket post-up player; he's like a more athletic version of Charles Oakley.... It's going to be hard for Jared Sullinger to be in a running game. I would think they'd prefer the way Wallace plays the four spot.
BRIAN BABINEAU/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES
BRIAN BABINEAU/NBAE/GETTY IMAGES