Avery Bradley is an anomaly. He’s got to be, because for a guard with such an offensive prowess to his game — and don’t get it twisted, Bradley was arguably the best scoring guard to come out of a high school class that included John Wall and Xavier Henry — to also have such a hallowed reputation as a lock-down defender is really unheard of. For what he lacks in height, listed at 6-2, Bradley makes up in athleticism and bounce. Think Dwyane Wade’s offense and heart mixed with Shannon Brown’s hops. I swear I’m not making this up: the kid can flat-out rise.
As a freshman at Texas this season, Bradley quickly became one of the Longhorns’ best defenders and second offensive weapon behind senior All-American Damion James. While averaging a modest 11.6 points a game is a step-down from the plus-19 points per he dropped while leading Findlay Prep to a national championship as a high school senior, Bradley played extremely well within coach Rick Barnes’ system. It’s also a system that has continually transitioned stellar underclassmen into extremely productive NBA players. Both Kevin Durant and LaMarcus Aldridge didn’t need too much seasoning in Austin before stepping into Madison Square Garden to shake Commissioner Stern’s hand, and neither does Bradley.
What makes Bradley so valuable in the League — beyond his wealth of potential — is his versatility on the court. His on-ball defense is quick enough to stick with opposing point guards and strong enough to battle bigger ball-handlers in the post. On the other side of the clipboard, Bradley is a smart offensive player; if you lay off of him, he can stroke the trey ball and if you crowd the perimeter, he will leave you on the back end of a SportsCenter highlight. Avery also won’t need too long to acclimate himself to the burn of the NBA; he’s ready to contribute almost immediately, especially on the defensive end. Who knows where any of these draft picks will be 10 years from now — if history serves as a guideline, many of the Lottery picks alone won’t be on an NBA bench — but keep a fantasy spot open for Bradley, who will definitely make his presence felt.