The 76ers struggled mightily last year on the defensive side of the ball. Although the team finished 19th in scoring, averaging 99.5 points a game, Philly was dead last on defense giving up 109.9 points a game. The Sixers allowed their opposition 47.1 percent shooting from the field, as well as 37.0 percent from three-point range. Both were in the bottom half of the NBA rankings, including next to last when it comes to field goals. Philadelphia was also the only team in the NBA to have a double digit negative point differential losing by an average of -10.4 points per game.
The Sixers were offensively “challenged” this past season, especially with the D-League roster they put on the floor. Minus the output from Thaddeus Young, Brett Brown’s team struggled to find a consistent scoring option for most of the year. This was made worse once the team traded away both Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes in an attempt to free up even more cap room. The likes of James Anderson and Elliot Williams were counted on night after night to give this team some offensive punch. Most of the time, they came up short.
But last year was suppose to be horrific, so they could put themselves in this position today, lots of cap room and lots of picks. Before the team addresses their needs in the draft, some of that ridiculous amount of cap space could be put into improving this roster soon. A player that the 76ers should look into is Avery Bradley.
The fourth year man out of Texas has made an impact on the roster of the Boston Celtics ever since he was drafted. Sixers fans may remember him as the person giving Evan Turner a headache during the 2012 NBA Playoffs. Now, he is a center piece in Boston and proving why he is such.
Last season the Celtics traded away the aging core of their roster to Brooklyn, getting some modest returns, but obviously freeing up tons cap space in the process. One reason why Boston head coach Brad Stevens, feels alright about the drastic moves, was because of the emergence of Bradley. Known for his bulldog approach to defense, Bradley has made a name for himself coming off the bench on the defensive end. This was in the twilight years of the Big Three, when he would eventually replace Ray Allen in the starting line-up. Once they left Bradley showed that he was more than one tool player by posting career highs in points (14.9), and rebounds (3.8.) per game.
During the final five games of the season, Bradley averaged 22.4 points and 4.2 rebounds a game, including 23 points against the Sixers in the last home game of the year. Not living in the shadow of Hall of Famers has given him a chance to flourish. I wouldn’t read too much into his low assist numbers (1.4 average for his career), since its hard for anyone else to pick up an assist playing with Rajon Rondo.
If there is any knock on the young man, it’s his inability to stay healthy. He missed 22 games this season due to injury. Ankle and Achilles problems plagued him this year; shoulder issues have limited him in the past as well. That’s not good from a player only 23 years old. Bradley has already been through a double season ending surgery ordeal. But, a quote a few weeks ago from Celtics president of Basketball operations, Danny Ainge, while on 98.5 FM The Sports Hub in Boston, spoke volumes:
“Well, listen, I’ve often said that the most important ability is availability,” Ainge replied. “So I think that that is a concern. But he’s very young, and they’re not any injuries that have set him way back. The shoulder injuries two years ago took away a summer of his development.”
The 76ers struggles on defense will be improved by the addition of Nerlens Noel, and maybe again in the draft. But putting Bradley on your team turns this team overnight into a decent defensive force, from the worst defending team in the NBA. He can also proven he can score when called upon, which adds to his value.
Bradley has a qualifying offer of $3.5 million next year. This figure can be easily matched by Boston and I would be shocked if they don’t. The Sixers have enough money to dangle a carrot in front of him if they feel like, but Boston has enough to match and I think he may end up staying put. Ainge capped his thoughts about Bradley with this:
“But listen, we’re big fans of Avery’s. Injuries are always a concern, but we’re big, big fans. You can see how he’s improving as a player every year.”
However if the 76ers do find a way to pry him from their biggest rival in the NBA, then this team might be competing a lot sooner than we thought. Open that check book, Mr. O’Neil.