Editor’s Note: For the second year in a row, the Silver Screen and Roll staff is counting down the most interesting Lakers heading into next season. We will be going through all 20 training camp spots before the season begins, and today we continue with No. 6, Avery Bradley.
Since Kawhi Leonard recruited Paul George to build a super team of their own on the Los Angeles Clippers, both their fan base and that of the Lakers has acted as if neither can be bothered to recognize the cross-town rivalry that could be.
That is until Avery Bradley comes up, and Clippers fans just can’t help themselves but point out how poorly he played in his time as a Clipper. If Bradley returns to his Boston Celtics form after having struggled the way he has the last few years, it might finally drive Clippers fans mad enough to elicit some genuine and active distaste.
Frankly, it’s what this “rivalry” between the two sides needs. This current state of affairs, highlighted mostly by pot shots from Lawrence Frank, is pretty boring.
The questions remains, though, whether the Lakers offer the kind of environment that can reclaim Bradley and other Lakers who desperately need regain something closer to their previously greater selves. Last season, such efforts did not end well.
At his best, Bradley was a defensive nuisance on the ball, and one who could spread the floor on the other end. At his worst (i.e., with the Clippers) he was more a positive defender only based on reputation and his shot disappeared, leading to one of the league’s worst net ratings (-16 as a Clipper in six games in 2017-’18, then an unfathomable -23 in 49 games last season).
One potential explanation for Bradley being particularly bad for the Clippers might have something to do with Doc Rivers utilizing him in the same way he did while the two were in Boston without accounting for reasons Bradley might not have been up to that role.
Bradley himself as spoken about the injuries he was playing with and the toll they took on his conditioning. Rivers might have fallen into the trap many coaches have, where they think of a role player only as they were at their best and utilize them accordingly. If Bradley was in poor condition, he wasn’t going to have the impact he normally would on either side of the ball.
With this as the operating theory, it would make sense that Bradley would perform better under more sensible circumstances while playing for coaches who better utilized that version of him as a player without past experiences clouding their judgment on how to do so.
Bradley’s minutes will mostly come at the shooting guard and point guard (though only nominally, as LeBron James will carry the creative burden). All the Lakers need Bradley to do is defend the perimeter and hit open threes. If Kentavious Caldwell-Pope bounces back from last season, Bradley won’t even have do that for lengthy minutes. Bradley, KCP, Danny Green and Alex Caruso should take the bulk of the team’s guard minutes, with Quin Cook, Troy Daniels and Rajon Rondo (the latter only in emergencies in which literally every other option humanly available has been attempted, included cloning and speed-aging) filling the gaps.
If Bradley does figure things out to the point where he can start, he, Green, James, Anthony Davis and likely one of JaVale McGee or Dwight Howard make for a lineup that would be interesting at the very least. That group would allow for a second unit of Caruso, Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Jared Dudley and whoever doesn’t start between Howard and McGee. That really isn’t a bad 10-man rotation.
If Bradley winds up being closer to the Clippers version of himself than any other version, then that rotation really starts to get stretched extra thin, especially now with the loss of DeMarcus Cousins. He’d be yet another failed Lakers reclamation project, joining the likes of Michael Beasley and Lance Stephenson.
But if Bradley does regain some of his former self through a more logical role and better overall health and conditioning, then the Lakers unearthed value with a player who makes a lot of sense alongside James and Davis. And if his best games just so happen to come against the Clippers, well that’s just a fun extra bit of gas on the fire that this inter-city rivalry has the potential to become.
The countdown so far...
6. Avery Bradley