The Los Angeles Lakers are arguably the best team in the NBA right now, and it’s in large part due to their defense. The Lakers rank third in the league in defensive efficiency as of this post, allowing just 103.2 points per 100 possessions, and Avery Bradley has been a big part of that.
Anthony Davis has (deservedly) gotten most of the Defensive Player of the Year buzz, but it’s worth noting that the Lakers were actually first in defensive efficiency before Bradley went down. His tenacious perimeter defense has been invaluable for L.A., and he told Allie Clifton of Spectrum SportsNet that it’s all part of a personal goal he has for himself to get back onto the NBA’s All-Defensive First Team for the first time since 2016:
“My goal is to make First Team All-Defense. We joked about it, we have so many guys that have been on defensive teams on our team. I’m hoping that I can continue to play the same way so that I can give myself a chance at First Team All-Defense as well.”
That award isn’t just about personal accolades for Bradley, either. He believes that if the whole team commits on that end, the Lakers can be special:
“If we have a defensive mindset I feel like we can be the best team in the NBA.”
From the moment training camp started, Bradley has been voicing that he wants to be a key part of the Lakers’ defensive turnaround, even saying he wants to be recognized as “the best perimeter defender in the NBA.” But does he have a case to make his second — he also made the second team in 2013 — All-Defensive team?
The short answer: Sort of. Bradley may no longer be starting since he returned from injury, but the Lakers are still 3.6 points per 100 possessions stingier with Bradley on the floor than they are when he sits, a swing that only trails Alex Caruso among Lakers players, according to NBA.com.
Bradley also often takes on the most challenging ballhandler on the other team, trying to exhaust them into mistakes with his relentless ball pressure. The tactic sometimes results in quick, cheap fouls, but overall seems to be allowing Bradley to be the point of attack that helps make the Lakers so dangerous defensively.
There are a lot of good defensive guards in the league, and many of them will likely make a more public case than Bradley is able to. Still, even if he doesn’t reach his goal, it’s a good thing for the Lakers that he’s aiming high. And hey, if he feels like he got snubbed at the end of the year, he may be intent on proving the league wrong in the postseason.