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The Corner Three

NBA Nerd Heaven

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    Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The NBA season is a long, arduous trek that lasts for around two thirds of the year. With games on just about every day throughout the course of the regular season, it's hard to know which contests to watch when you're being flooded with choices on League Pass. 

Just how you can choose your games to watch is up to you. But I've figured out that every NBA fan on the face of the planet is in one of four categories during this process. Category one belongs to people that know practically nothing about basketball and only witness teams and players they've heard of. In other words, these are the people that would willingly sit through a Knicks game.

Group two is the homer category. If the Cavs are playing the Warriors, but instead you choose to watch your favorite squad take on the Nets, this is the category where you belong. Category three is home to every fan who thinks they are an NBA expert, but really knows absolutely nothing. These are the fans that claim they know everything about the NBA but only ever observe Cavs fixtures. Basically, if you've ever Tweeted anything like this, you're a category three person:

That leaves the rest of us as category four members. Category four NBA fans all pick either the most exciting/tight/interesting game to watch while they're flipping through League Pass, or they pick the most enjoyable matchup in terms of the type of basketball on display. That level of enjoyment can be determined in a number of ways. Every year the great Zach Lowe (and formerly Bill Simmons) creates his 'League Pass rankings', in which he ranks every team in the NBA from 30-1 in terms of watchability, as his way of determining which contests to check out on League Pass.

My way -- which you're about to read -- is by figuring out which players in the league provide the most excitement during my viewing experience. This article is an All-Star team I have created of the players around the league that I find the most fun to watch. This is my little guide to all of you, which will hopefully help you to determine which players you want to check out during your late night League Pass sessions.

The players on this fictional team I have created are all players that I just love watching. Some are dazzling dunkers, some are smooth Europeans, others might be three-point bombers. A couple I have selected based on pure entertainment alone, with their basketball performance not really influencing my decision. 

I've tried to make this team as diverse and as unique as possible, which is why you won't see any actual All-Stars on the team. Flooding the team with the Currys, Westbrooks and LeBrons of the world doesn't help anyone figure out which games they want to watch every night. We already know they are exciting.

So without further ado, here are my 12 League Pass All-Stars, players you should all be keeping an eye on this season to enhance your League Pass experience.

G - Marcus Smart, Boston Celtics

If the NBA had an award for the player that spends the most amount of time on the floor of the court, Marcus Smart would win it in a landslide every single year. Whether he's diving on a loose ball, throwing himself out of bounds to save the rock, or even putting his body on the line to pull off the most masterful flop you've ever seen, Marcus Smart is never not hustling his ass off. 

He is the perfect example of why you don't have to be a big scorer or a high flyer to be entertaining in basketball. Sheer guts and determination are more than enough to make a basketball game enjoyable. No matter what type of NBA fan you are, you have to appreciate a guy that gives 100% for 48 minutes every single night. You have to enjoy watching a guy that would quite literally do anything to win a basketball game. 

Smart isn't only watchable because of his hustle. His defense is also incredibly satisfying to check out. Despite being 6'4'', Marcus Smart has been assigned to Kristaps Porzingis and Paul Millsap by Brad Stevens in the past. Surprisingly, he has done a brilliant job on both of them, even though he is at a clear size disadvantage. Smart uses his guts and determination to summon every ounce of himself defensively. He never takes his eyes off the ball, is always locked in and hustles to make any play he can. He is a truly terrifying defender for any player in the league to match up against. 

I don't care if he can't shoot. I don't care if watching him run a pick and roll gives me and every other Celtics fan on the planet a heart attack. If he continues to give his all night in and night out, he'll stay on this team. 

G - Will Barton, Denver Nuggets

Will Barton is pretty close to the opposite of what makes Smart such a great player to watch. While Smart's defense and tenacity makes him watchable, Barton's a more conventional entertaining player. Barton isn't a pretty poor defensive player and isn't always focused during a ball game like Smart, but he more than makes up for it with microwave scoring and high-flying slams.

Barton is right there with Zach Lavine and Aaron Gordon in the 'holy crap, can this guy actually fly?!?' club. His athleticism is something to be truly admired. If he gets an inch of open court, he's going to try and jump over anyone or anything to slam one down. The best part of his athleticism though is that unlike a guy like LaVine, Barton has the Russell Westbrook gene of having a explosive side to his athleticism. Instead of gliding up seemingly effortlessly and throwing a dunk down with finesse, Barton will take a couple of assertive power dribbles, take off with two thunderous steps and try to snap the rim in half when he dunks it. 

Outside of his dunking ability, Barton has got an inconsistent jump shot that he has improved throughout the years, but it only adds to his entertainment value. There are nights where he can't make anything, but then Barton gets one tightly contested triple to go down and suddenly, he's in heat check mode. He's also got an excellent handle for a wing, something that he uses to try and break a few ankles on every single possession. 

F - Giannis Antetokounmpo, Milwaukee Bucks

This one's obvious. Anyone that is 6'11'' with a 7'3'' wingspan and spends a good chunk of his time at point guard is going to be as watchable as just about any other player in the league. I mean how can you not love a guy that can pass like Rajon Rondo:

Send back any shot with his go-go-gadget arms:

And do this on a regular basis:

F - Larry Nance Jr., Los Angeles Lakers

Larry Nance Jr. played a heck of a lot  for a guy that was picked 27th overall in the 2015 NBA draft. The reason why he played so much is not only because he was incredibly exciting to watch, but also because he was absolutely superb for a struggling Lakers team. Playing at the small ball four, he was brilliant. He used his athleticism to scoot past slower power forwards and throw down some viscous slams on offense, all while being effective defensively. He was solid when he was needed to switch on to guards, poked the ball loose from larger bigs and was able to come up with some impressive rejections. 

His outstanding athleticism for a big man and impressive dunking ability probably would've been enough to land him a spot on this team, but during Summer League a couple of months ago, he showed off some Draymond Green-type potential. Back in July he looked a much more complete basketball player. His defensive positioning and instincts had clearly improved, his jumpshot looked a dozen times better than it was and showed the ability to be a playmaking four, with his ball skills getting to a new level. During Summer League, he was given the green light to be one of the chief offensive playmakers on the Lakers. Here's a great clip of him showing all of us why I just compared him to Draymond:

With an expanded repertoire that is eerily reminiscent of Green, Nance makes it on this team without a doubt. With an improved jumper and playmaking ability added on to an already dazzling game, Larry Nance Jr. is going to provide some unmissable basketball this season.

C - Nikola Jokic, Denver Nuggets (Captain)

Nikola Jokic is no longer a hidden gem. He is no longer a player to keep an eye on. He is a full fledged NBA star. Sure, he only averaged 10 points last season, but some of the stuff this guy can do on the basketball court quite literally makes my jaw drop. If you are somehow still unfamiliar with Jokic after his impeccable rookie season (he plays in Denver, I don't blame you), let me introduce you to him. 

Simply put it, Nikola Jokic is a joy to watch. There's not a thing this guy can't do offensively. If you want him to bang down in the low post, he'll body up anybody down low, hit them with a silky post move that will remind you of Pau Gasol and end it with a smooth finish. If you need him to stretch the floor, he can pop out to any part of the court, including three-point range, where he is more than capable of hitting from. If you want him to be a pick and roll man, he'll give his point guard a solid screen and roll to the basket hard. If you need a big to be an extra playmaker, Jokic is more than capable of that role too. Just stick him at the elbow, give him the ball and watch the big man throw perfect no-look pass after perfect no-look pass, every single time. 

Nobody can say that isn't fun to watch. 

Jokic isn't a very good defensive player, but he's smart and tough enough to still make a difference on that end. But his defensive play doesn't really matter when you just let him go to work on offense.

Sub - Mario Hezonja, Orlando Magic (6th Man)

If Scott Skiles actually trusted Hezonja last season, he's be a starter on the League Pass All-Stars, but alas, he sits here.

He wasn't able to show it in his debut NBA season, but Hezonja is one helluva basketball player. Like many of the players on this team, he doesn't play much defense, but his offensive game speaks for itself. Hezonja is a great athlete, with a killer stroke from downtown. He only made 34.9% of his attempts from downtown last season, but his work in Europe prior to the draft tells me that he'll raise his efficiency eventually. 

To be honest, his talent isn't what gets him on this team. If he were just a great athlete with a good three-point shot, that wouldn't be enough to crack the prestigious League Pass All-Stars at all. He'd be about as watchable as Ben McLemore if that was the case. What gets him here is his personality and confidence on the court. Back in his Euro League days, just by watching the tape, you could tell that Hezonja thought he was the love child of Kobe Bryant and Manu Ginobili. He dribbled up the court with the swagger of a man who thinks he belongs in the hall of fame and his shot selection was on par with a 40 PPG scorer. 

I mean the guy thinks he's as good as Jordan. He even wears the number 23 to prove it. 

With that confidence he'll take any shot that he thinks is within his range, try the most audacious dunk possible and throw a no-look pass, not because it will fool the opposition, but because he feels like it. It gets to a point where Hezonja's confidence not only borders on cockiness, but is cockiness. There is no better way to describe his personality than with this GIF:

Yup, that's Hezonja shooting a contested three with 5 seconds left when his team was up 12, for no other reason than because he's Mario Hezonja. Not only does he drain the three, but he then dapped up the opposing coach because he's the freaking man. 

The NBA world needs to see Mario Hezonja light it up. He could be the most entertaining player the league has ever seen. 

Sub - Ish Smith, Detroit Pistons

He won't be as fun to watch this year with limited playing time behind Reggie Jackson on the Pistons, but Ish Smith managed to win 9 of his 50 games in Philadelphia, which is a feat so hard to achieve that he should've won the MVP. Not only did he manage to win games with the 76ers, but he somehow found a way to make Sixers' basketball enjoyable, which is harder than winning a championship in my eyes.

Smith's blinding pace, fearless drives to the rim and utter disregard for taking care of the ball made him fun to watch last season. On the fastbreak he was deadly, flying past everyone in sight, while in a half-court setting he ran an endless amount of high pick and rolls. Those pick and rolls were incredibly easy to defend as the Sixers have yet to grasp the concept of floor spacing, but Smith's dynamic playmaking made them at least semi-effective. 

He can't really shoot and forces the issue a little bit too much (2.6 turnovers per game last season), but the weak areas of his game don't detract from the overall level of excitement I get from watching Ish Smith tear down the court at Usain Bolt speed on every single possession. 

Sub - Matt Barnes, Sacramento Kings

There's always entertainment value in a good NBA fight. 

Sub - Boban Marjanovic, Detroit Pistons

If you think that watching a 7'3'' Serbian dude that weighs 290 lbs absolutely dominate garbage time with his gigantic hands isn't enjoyable, there's something wrong with you. Boban can snag offensive rebounds without jumping, block shots despite not being in defensive position, ferociously dunk on any big man in the league (if he doesn't first puncture the ball with his otherworldly hands) and post the third highest PER in the league even if he only plays in garbage time. 

I can't wait to see what he does in Stan Van Gundy's four-out system. 

Sub - Patty Mills, San Antonio Spurs

If Patty Mills were to dye his hair blue, he would be the living embodiment of Sonic the Hedgehog. Mills is never not maneuvering his way around the court at full pace. Despite this, Mills never seems to lose any energy whatsoever. 

What makes Mills such a joy to watch is that energy. He's about as energetic as an NBA player comes. On offense, he's always in motion. Whether weaving his way around pin-downs when he's away from the ball to launch a quick trey or slicing his way to the rim when he's handling the ball with a series of sharp, precise moves. When he is away from the ball, his movement is arguably the best in the NBA. He is an expert at spotting the perfect time to make a pacey cut to catch his defender of guard and once he does that, he runs perfectly around his off-ball screeners, scraping them as he passes by, so that his trailing defender has no chance of ever reaching him. 

On defense, his energy is welcomed by Gregg Popovich. He harasses opposition ball-handlers with his pesky nature and makes the Spurs' tradition lockdown defenders' -- Kawhi and Danny Green -- a lot easier when he's in the game.  

Sub - Marco Belinelli, Charlotte Hornets

Remember how I was talking about Mario Hezonja's shot selection? Well, let's just say that Marco Belinelli's is about 10 times as bad. 

I genuinely think that Marco Belinelli believes he is better than Steph Curry. There were times throughout Kings games last season where Belinelli would take the ball up the court, the defense wouldn't be set and instead of feeding it inside to DeMarcus Cousins, Marco would pull up from 30 feet. It's not like this happened every once in a while or when he was catching fire, this was ALL THE TIME. It got to the point where every time Belinelli would touch the ball, he'd launch one, not worrying at all about where he was on the court. 

The worst part is that there is no justification for these shots. Belinelli can always point to the fact that he won the three-point contest in 2014, but last season he was absolutely awful, shooting 38.6% from the field and 30.6% from long range. Despite his horrific percentages, he was still jacking up nearly 10 shots per contest. 

Regardless of how frustrating he might be, it's incredibly funny to watch Beli throw up these atrocious shots every game. Add in some crafty Italian playmaking and you've got a player that is fun to watch. 

Sub - Aaron Gordon, Orlando Magic

Yeah...he can do this:

I think it's pretty safe to say he's exciting.

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John Geliebter-USA TODAY Sports

Nerlens Noel made headlines recently (or what can be considered an NBA headline during the dead point of the NBA calendar) when he criticized the Philadelphia Sixers for not putting together a competent and balanced roster, even saying that the big man logjam in Philly "doesn't make any sense."

He's not wrong. 

As we should all know, Sam Hinkie's failed 'process' landed the Sixers three bright young centers all picked within the first six picks of three straight drafts. Hinkie's philosophy of drafting the best asset available has meant that the Sixers now have next to no talent outside of the frontcourt, in a league becoming increasingly less reliant on big men. From a basketball point of view, Noel is right, the team doesn't make any sense. Arguably their five best players (Dario Saric, Ben Simmons, Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid) all play either the four or the five, which probably means that at any one time, just two (at a stretch three) of their best five players can share the court. 

And it gets to a whole new level of stupidity when you realize that despite having their best five players all play in the frontcourt, their skill sets don't exactly fit together like puzzle pieces. Out of those five players, only Dario Saric can hit any sort of jump shot consistently. In an NBA landscape where floor spacing is paramount, having just one of your foundational players be able to hit a jump shot isn't great. With the lack of floor spacing in their frontcourt, Ben Simmons is going to have trouble weaving his way into the paint and doing his best LeBron James impression, while the likes of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor both won't be able to be nearly as effective in the post as they should be without decent spacing. 

Whether you consider the process a success or a failure, you have to admit that the Sixers' current roster is absolutely ridiculous. Constructing a squad of players that can't actually play with each other is idiotic. Sure, Hinkie's plan may have gathered a solid pool of assets, but that asset collection actually has to try and win games and without floor spacing, roster balance or you know...a point guard. 

It's therefore quite obvious that the way forward for this Sixers team is to deal one or two of those assets to fill areas of their squad in desperate need of fixing. With Hinkie no longer in charge and the philosophy of the franchise changing away from his beliefs, it is highly likely that Bryan Colangelo and company will deal one of their big men to put together a working roster that might actually record more than 10 wins this season. Colangelo even went on the record in July, stating that it is probable that the Sixers will have to deal a big man to sort out the terrifying lack of roster balance.

The thing is, all the other 29 teams around the league know this. They are completely aware that the Sixers will have to deal a big man and because of it, they know that they don't have to give up much at all to acquire one of them. Colangelo is yet to lower the trade price for any of his bigs, which explains why no team has made a deal yet, but as time rolls on, the need to strengthen other areas of the roster and the need to clear out the big man logjam will continue to grow.  

Just who will get dealt is at the moment unclear, but by using the process of elimination it becomes obvious who the most likely player to get traded is. Saric and Simmons are untouchables. Saric is the only floor spacer in the clogged rotation and has looked like his star after his time in Europe, meanwhile Simmons isn't going anywhere because the Sixers just invested the number one overall pick into him. 

This leaves Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. 

Embiid is an unproven rookie and the Sixers will want to see what he can do after two years of waiting. His reputation prior to his injury setbacks will be more than intriguing enough to force the Sixers to keep him around. It's easy to forget, but just two short years ago, Embiid was the next Hakeem Olajuwon. We were all sure of it. His raw talent and physical gifts were and still are absolutely astounding. Philly aren't dealing Embiid, at least, not before he gets a chance to prove he is for real. 

Next up on the list is Jahlil Okafor, whose game is extinct from the modern day NBA. Back-to-basket big men are almost all dead as none of them can't fit with the current NBA which relies heavily on versatility, athleticism and shooting. To me, I don't see a team in the league that would give up a valuable asset in exchange for Okafor in his current state. Greg Monroe is essentially a polished version of Okafor without the off-court, personality and rebounding issues. The Bucks have tried to give Monroe away for free since the offseason began and no one would take him on, it was no secret. So what chance does Philly have of getting something decent in return for Okafor? What's even the point in dealing him? 

That leaves Nerlens Noel as the most eligible player to get traded from this 76ers team. He has played two seasons already, he isn't a star, so the Sixers wouldn't view him as untouchable, yet he is already proven run and jump big that can fit into the modern NBA. Any team could use a guy like him on their roster. Not to mention Noel has made it pretty clear that he wouldn't mind leaving Philadelphia. 

What makes him the 'NBA's most intriguing trade chip' is his trade price. As already mentioned, the Sixers will eventually need to deal one of their big men, so the price will already be lower than it should be, but there's a plot twist in the form that this is Nerlens Noel's contract year.  Noel will be a restricted free agent next summer and teams will know that they won't have to offer the flat top too much for the Sixers not to match an offer next July, because of the glut of bigs the Sixers already have. Teams could get him on a below market contract next summer, so there is no incentive for any team to offer much in a trade for Noel now. 

However, because Colangelo knows that he may not extend Noel's contract past 2017, it makes the most sense for the Sixers to trade the big man now, in case they lose him for absolutely nothing in 2017. What all of this means is that any team that would like to acquire Nerlens, could get him on a cut-price trade deal right now. 

But his trade price is only half of what makes Noel such an appealing trade candidate. The other side of the coin is that Noel is a really damn good young player.

Sure, he doesn't have an offensive game and may never develop one, but his defensive prowess is more than enough to make a deal for. In just two NBA seasons, Nerlens has proven that he has the potential to be an elite defensive player. His explosive athleticism and 7'4'' wingspan make him a nightmare for anyone to shoot over. Add in his incredible timing and instincts and you have a rim-protecting prototype. 

It's not just the rim-barricade you're trading for with Noel, it's the complete defensive package. Last season, due to the fact that Jahlil Okafor can't physically move and therefore can't guard anyone on the perimeter, Nerlens Noel had to spend most of his time defending away from the rim. Surprisingly enough, Noel succeeded in that role. He was nimble enough to keep up with smaller fours and he found ways to limit their production, despite the clear disadvantage he was at with his size. With the ability to chase smaller, quicker players around the perimeter, added on to the shot blocking part of his game, he will be a dominant defensive force for years to come. 

If he can ever add to his offensive repertoire that currently only consists of scoring from 2 feet and in (where he shoots 71.6%, per basketball-reference), he will become one of the better big men in the NBA. With his athleticism, he should be a great pick and roll target, but instead, he ranked in the 34th percentile among pick and roll men last season, which is awful. Most of this can be attributed to the horrific spacing the Sixers had for him and his massively high turnover rate of 15% in these types of plays. 

Because of the need to trade a big man and the fact that Noel is a free agent next year, a perfect storm could be brewing for any of the other 29 teams to snap a bright young prospect on the cheap.  Get on the phones everyone, get on the phones right now. 

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    Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

If you're a Celtics fan like me, you would have spent the summer dreaming of the endless list of star players Danny Ainge has been linked with. Since draft night, the Celtics have been rumored to be in discussions for Jimmy Butler, Blake Griffin, Russell Westbrook, DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Love, just to name a few. Every time a rumor gets brought up, whether it be for one of the superstars I just listed or anyone else, the first player every Celtics fan is willing to give up in return is Avery Bradley.

As much as you'd like to deny it, it's true. Us Celtics fans are unwilling to part with any of our prized assets (Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas and the Nets' picks come to mind). Whenever a trade target is discussed, without considering who it is, we always make it clear that Crowder, Thomas and the Nets' picks are off the table, no matter how unreasonable we sound (NBA Twitter is so much fun). Because of our unwillingness to part with our most valuable trade chips, we see Avery Bradley as the most obvious trade piece, seeing as the Celtics would need to get rid of something at least semi-valuable in order to acquire a big name. 

He isn't a star, he won't score 20 points per game and doesn't offer any intriguing upside, yet he is still an incredibly effective NBA player that would be more than useful to any franchise. Those ingredients make Avery the ideal player to get traded from this Celtics team. The Celtics are obviously yet to make a deal for a big name player and that's because of the unwillingness to give up any of the key trade chips at Danny Ainge's disposal. I'm absolutely sure if Ainge had a chance to acquire a third All-Star in exchange for Avery, he would've done it in a heartbeat. That's obvious. Bradley isn't a game changer that could lead the Celtics to the promised land like some of the stars the Celtics have been linked to. 

The thing is, even though the Celtics will eventually need to gain another star to complete their meteoric rise, Boston shouldn't be so quick to include Bradley in any old deal. It may sound stubborn, but if the Celtics are to acquire another star, they should try everything in their power to keep Bradley in green. Sure, excluding him as well as Thomas, Crowder and the Nets' picks doesn't leave much else on the table in terms of trade assets and instead of making a deal for a star, you would probably end up alienating the other 29 general managers around the league with low-ball offers, but keeping hold of Avery Bradley is worth it. 

His dull stats don't show it, but Bradley is much more than just a role player, as he is known in most NBA circles. He is much more than that. At least, he is much more than that on the Celtics -- the ultimate greater-than-the-sum-of-its-parts team. He plugs gaping holes on this Celtics team on both ends. He is a key cog on both sides of the ball that when taken out, destroys the entire green machine. 

There is no better way to illustrate Bradley's importance to this Celtics team than the Hawks' series last season. After Avery went down in the latter stages of game one, the Celtics struggled all over the court. Not even Brad Stevens could come up with a solution to fill the holes Bradley left. He tried plugging both Marcus Smart and Evan Turner into the role, but neither could replace Bradley's two-way versatility. Smart couldn't fill Bradley's floor spacing shoes and neither could Turner, who also got nowhere near matching Avery's air-depriving defensive prowess.

For a team that struggles with floor spacing even with Bradley, losing him broke the whole system. Meanwhile defensively, losing Bradley meant that Boston's deadly perimeter defense was punctured, which exposed issues with their interior defense. That series showed us just how much Avery Bradley means to this Celtics team. Without him, the team is incomplete both offensively and defensively. 

Offensively speaking, Bradley has sneakily turned into one of the better off-ball contributors in the entire league. He's a limited offensive player, that has used his intellect and work ethic to become effective. Bradley averaged 15 points per game, on 44% shooting from the field last season, a large number for a guy who cannot really create his own offense. A majority of his buckets come from catch-and-shoot opportunities, while the rest come from his nifty off-ball cutting and his work in transition. 

For Avery to become who he is offensively though, he has put in countless hours of training. When he first entered the league, Bradley was an ultra raw point guard, with limited ball skills that couldn't do much away from the ball. To put it bluntly, he couldn't shoot and was a woeful offensive player. But unlike most players, Bradley didn't just accept this. He worked his ass off to the point where last season he was the second leading scorer on a 48 win team. He has evolved from a ball-dominant point guard into an off-ball maestro. He has become a master at running off pin-downs and spotting up without any hesitation, for a smooth jumper. 

That jumper has been in development for a while now. He has worked so damn hard on it that Bradley made 147 threes last season, more than recognized snipers like Khris Middleton, Danny Green, Gordon Hayward and Dirk Nowitzki. That number of 147 is also 6 more than Bradley made in his first four seasons combined. If that isn't a testament to Bradley's work ethic, I don't know what is. Bradley has gotten so good shooting the ball now that he ranked in the 78th percentile on spot-up shooting plays, according to NBA.com.

While on offense, his improvement has raised a few eyebrows, it is his defense that gets everyone talking. Unfortunately, some have painted the picture of the All-Defensive first teamer him being overrated. This is largely due to his weirdly poor defensive stats. Tracking stats say that he forces his opponent to shoot 2.3% below their average, a mark that doesn't match other elite defensive players. He owns a bad defensive rating of 106, has a negative defensive box plus-minus and has a defensive real plus-minus of -1.24. All of those stats would lead you to the conclusion that at best, Bradley is a below average defensive player. 

Even though I adore advanced stats and use them frequently throughout my articles, this is an example where you have to realize there is a limit to what statistics can tell you about the game of basketball. Because in Avery Bradley's case, the eye test would tell anyone a completely different story of Bradley's defensive abilities.

Bradley is a uniquely great defensive player. At 6'2'' and weighing in at just 180 lbs, Avery doesn't exactly look like an intimidating force. But with a 6'7'' wingspan, a relentless attitude that doesn't quit and cat-like instincts, he is certainly one of the better defensive players in the entire association. Bradley limits space better than any other player in the league. I don't think there is another player in NBA history that is able able to stay chest-to-chest with every guy he guards for the full 94 for 48 minutes a night. He doesn't allow an inch of space for his opponent and just as the guy he's guarding tries to create that necessary space, Avery always manages to stick his hand in the cookie jar at just the right time, to knock the ball free with one clean, precise and aggressive swipe. 

When he's guarding away from the ball, he's might be even better than when he's on-ball. Bradley is an extremely smart player on that side of the ball, he always timing his rotations perfectly, anticipating passes with ease, switching at just the right moment every time and doing everything else in between. If you don't believe me, just watch these two videos by Coach Mike on YouTube:

What you should've gathered by now is that Avery Bradley is a really damn good player, that has been critical to the Celtics' success over the past couple of years. Sure we all want another superstar for the Celtics. One more All-Star on this roster could give the Celtics all the firepower they need to beat the Cavs. But Avery Bradley is incredibly important to this Celtics squad. As fans, we need to stop taking him for granted and realize how important he is. Appreciate how vital Avery is and hope like hell that Danny Ainge does too. 

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