Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has coached Avery Bradley for two-plus seasons, but hadn’t given serious consideration to bringing the shooting guard off the bench until this past week.
“I thought about it, but I never really thought about it enough to give it a go,’’ Stevens said Friday night before Boston’s 120-95 win over the Brooklyn Nets. “It’s something we’ve tripped into in a little bit of a way.’’
Circumstances necessitated Stevens changing his mindset. He opted to be cautious with Bradley’s minutes by bringing home off the bench when the veteran guard returned following a calf injury on Sunday against Oklahoma City. Four games later, Bradley is now fully healthy. But Stevens has kept him as his sixth man since he likes how he’s meshing with the second unit.
“He’s really playing great,’’ Stevens said of Bradley, who scored a team-high 21 points Friday night. “I’m still in look and see and evaluate mode in a lot of things, but, the one thing that is a given, is that if we bring Isaiah or Avery off the bench, we’ve got a scoring spark.
“Avery just happens to be that (now) because when he came back, we wanted to be slow with him. Then he’s exploded the last three games so we’ll see how that goes. He’s been great about it, just like Isaiah was. I can see the spark those guys give us…it really helps us.’’
The numbers back up Stevens’ assessment of Bradley’s bench play:
In those four games coming off the pine, the 24-year-old has hit 55 percent of his shots from the field and 52.9 percent from 3-point range. The impressive efficiency has enabled Bradley to post 18.5 points per game in those contests, despite averaging just 25.5 minutes.
Boston has won three of its four games since the switch, and that success has Bradley sounding content with the new role.
“It doesn’t matter to me,’’ Bradley said of being a reserve. “I just want to do whatever’s best for the team. That’s the most important thing for me. As long as we are winning games, that’s all that matters.’’
Stevens has not committed to the switch long-term, but the addition of Isaiah Thomas’ offensive punch to the first unit has proven to be beneficial as well. The evenness of Boston’s roster makes this a fluid situation, although one that is working out well for Stevens for the time being.
“Even if you started this way for a couple more games, I could see there could be games when you wanted for whatever reason for Avery to start for matchup purposes or you wanted Isaiah off the bench for matchup purposes,’’ Stevens said of the starting lineup. “We may start going that way. That’s what is going to be required from a flexibility standpoint on this team. Avery’s handled it well. Avery knows he’s one of our more accomplished players and he’s one of our more dynamic scorers.’’