After being drafted by the Celtics, he told the media he’s been "the best defender on every team I played on since first grade," and the 44 steals he recorded during his only collegiate season at Texas speak for themselves. He was relentless at times, averaging over two steals per game during December.
Folks like ESPN’s Chad Ford have lauded Bradley’s quickness and ability to slash to the basket, but aspects of his game on the offensive side of the ball — particularly his shooting – have drawn heat.
Sound like anyone you know?
The combo guard’s unpolished game identifies closely with the man ahead of him on the depth chart, Rajon Rondo. Celtics fans should relish the fact that Bradley will be able to take pointers from a star who’s also developed with the aid of elder teammates.
Rondo knows the drill. The Big Three have their fingerprints all over the well-rounded player he’s become. Now it’s his turn to show a rookie the ropes.
It all starts with fine-tuning the game Bradley already plays. Though there never was a question Rondo could pressure the perimeter, scouts wondered aloud whether he had the size to handle NBA screens. Rondo answered the doubters with hustle, and that’s where the lesson should begin when mentoring a young player.
Fresh off Bradley’s first paycheck, Rondo’s sure to hash out a reality check in the C’s first practice — a model for how to bring intensity to the NBA game.
A lesson in passing the basketball is next.
According to NBAdraft.net, "When [Bradley] puts the ball on the floor, it's almost a guarantee that he is looking for his own offense, as he lacks the vision, play-making ability and awareness to find his teammates for a better scoring opportunity."
Rondo averaged just 4.8 assists per game as a senior at the University of Kentucky. But he never lacked vision, and his 9.8 assists per game in 2010 prove that a change in approach can unlock additional dimensions of a player’s game.
Bradley dropped a minuscule 2.1 dimes per game in 2010. Whether he needs a change in approach — or simply time to mature — he’s due for an evolution to shed the ambiguity in his game.
The first step toward becoming an offensive player is to embrace an assertive style of basketball. Bradley was described before the draft by Bleacher Report as "passive on offense." Rondo has witnessed firsthand how to instill confidence in teammates. If the Big Three hadn’t embraced a Rondo-led effort in 2010, the C’s would have fallen far short of the NBA Finals.
With Rondo whispering in his ear, Bradley will have an established veteran’s support at every sharp turn. That kind of foundation is more important to a player’s development than advice. Without a solid base, wisdom would go in one ear and out the other.
But like in any relationship, a superiority complex will only breed contempt. By that logic, their shared deficiencies shooting the basketball will serve as an equalizer. Who wouldn’t bond over the hundreds of basketballs cycled back and forth to improve a mid-range jumper?
Yes, it appears to be a perfect fit. But don’t tell these two. As two players who pride themselves on lockdown defense, they’ll be stuck in each other’s faces at practice.