The Big Three continues to age, but the supporting cast around them is raw with plenty of potential for growth, and that's never truer than with the youngest member of their team. So what will Boston make of the one teenage Celtic? Will Avery Bradley be an impact player?
The Celtics had high hopes for Bradley, the former University of Texas freshman who turns 20 on November 26. The C's didn't see many options with the No. 19 overall pick in last month's NBA draft — they're building a team to compete for a championship right now, and there weren't too many youngsters in this year's crop that could help that cause. Bradley was one of only two guys on the Celtics' board, and if they didn't get one, they were trading the pick. Apparently, Danny Ainge saw a lot that he liked in the scrawny 6-foot-3 combo guard.
He saw a kid with speed, quickness and an incredible wingspan. He saw a confident dribbler, a smart passer and a versatile shooter. Perhaps most importantly, given his likely role on the Celtics next season, Ainge saw a lock-down defender who could already be ready to cover any guard in the NBA.
ESPNU ranked Bradley No. 1 player in the nation's top 100 college basketball recruits entering last season. Derrick Favors was ranked second, DeMarcus Cousins fourth, John Wall fifth, and Bradley stood above them all. Ainge saw a big-time youngster with big-time potential.
Unfortunately, we won't see any of him until the fall. News broke shortly after draft night that Bradley had suffered a severely sprained ankle during a pre-draft workout, and he would be missing in action for the entirety of this month's summer league action in Las Vegas. Expectations may be high for Bradley in Boston, but he won't have a chance to live up to them until the regular season rolls around.
But this isn't about this summer. This is about a promising young kid and an organization that has high hopes for his future. Hopes so high, in fact, that Ainge and the Celtics signed him right away as Bradley is set to make $1.8 million in his rookie season, $1.2 million in 2011, and team options for the third and fourth seasons of his career.
Bradley can make a difference right away. The night he was drafted, Doc Rivers came right out and praised his defensive prowess, saying he was NBA ready with the skills to play point guard defense on anyone. That's a skill the Celtics could use coming off their bench — they've talked for a long time about finding a suitable backup for Rajon Rondo, and now they just might have one.
Rivers now has some flexibility in the guard options off his bench. In Nate Robinson, he's got an energetic young scorer that can attack the basket or knock down electrifying shots from outside. In Bradley, he's got a lock-down defender. Rivers can mix and match, adapting to any given situation in a game. If the Celtics get down, Nate can bring them back. If they get a lead, Bradley can help them hold it.
The defensive stopper role is an important one in Boston, where the Celtics have proven in recent years that defense wins championships. And with the departure of Tony Allen, who signed a contract a week ago with the Memphis Grizzlies, there's an opening in Boston for someone to step up and be the Celtics' lock-down guy.
That role is Avery Bradley's to lose. He may just be a kid, but he's got the chance to play like a man this upcoming season.