Some of the more impassioned, green-blindered NBA fans in Boston are cranky about veteran shooting guard Ray Allen’s decision to leave and crankier still toward Allen for opting to sign as a free agent with the rival Miami Heat, who have put the Celtics down the past two springs.
Avery Bradley, though, approaches it from a different direction. He might have mixed feelings about Allen no longer being with the Celtics – it does, after all, further clear the way for Bradley’s rising role — but he has only warm fuzzies toward the man himself, regardless of his new address.
Without Allen’s generosity to a young, unproven backcourt player, this whole storyline might be playing out different. And Bradley appreciates that, as related by ESPNBoston.com’s Chris Forsberg.
“Ray was a great tutor,” said Bradley, who struggled with his ability to generate offense early in his NBA career but blossomed last season as he became more confident in his jump shot.
“I’m sad that he’s gone, but we all wish the best for him. But he definitely meant a lot. He helped me out every single day. Sometimes I’d just be working out and he’d be watching on the side. He’d get up and tell me what I needed to work on, or tell me how I can be more consistent. I really thank him for that.”
Bradley shot a mere 34.3 percent from the floor during his rookie season, and those struggles trickled into his second season, particularly as the Celtics worked to develop him as a backup point guard.
Once the team put the focus on Bradley as a shooting guard, he flourished. His confidence grew as he utilized his cutting ability to generate easy hoops, and his jump shot — something coach Doc Rivers swore he showcased during the team’s practices — soon followed.
As it turned out, Bradley’s improvement offensively made it easier, then imperative, for Rivers to rely on the younger man’s defense at the position. That didn’t go over well with Allen when he returned from ankle issues, and that was one of the dominoes that eventually led to his stunning and rancorous departure to South Florida.
The Celtics will be counting on Jason Terry and Courtney Lee, two summer acquisitions, to pick up any scoring slack. But another way to gauge the Allen-Boston split, once Bradley is fully recovered from two offseason shoulder surgeries, will be to compare his offensive production to Allen’s, adjusted for minutes.
In 2011-12, per 36 minutes, Allen averaged 15.1 points and 2.5 assists while shooting 45.8 percent overall and 45.3 percent on 3-pointers. Bradley was at 12.7 points and 2.3 assists, hitting 49.8 percent of his shots and 40.7 percent from the arc. Factor in Bradley’s superior defensive skills and it’s quite likely he closed the gap via points denied to the other guys.
This season, there might be no gap at all – or it might favor appreciative Avery Bradley – thanks to the professional shooter who was willing to share.