Everybody's Talking About Avery - RaptorsHQ Prospect Preview #4

With the fifth instalment in their prospect preview series, RaptorsHQ takes a closer look at Texas guard Avery Bradley, who seems to be an early favourite as the Raptors 13th overall pick in the upcoming draft.

It's May 28th 

The actual NBA draft is still nearly a month away.

Yet many folks are already touting Texas guard Avery Bradley as the Raptors most likely selection come June 24th.

It's an interesting call considering a few key points:

  • 1) The Raptors already have 3 veteran point-guards on their roster and Avery projects to be more of a 1 at the next level.
  • 2) He didn't have a great season at Texas, and the Longhorns considering their talent (they boast three potential NBA draft picks this year) were an absolute flop.
  • 3) Toronto is possibly losing Chris Bosh, Amir Johnson, Rasho Nesterovic and Patrick O'Bryant, leaving them with a serious hole up front. This draft, if anything, is deep in talented big men.

So what gives?

For starters, Avery has a number of very tantalizing attributes.  He's very long despite his height (and even that is a solid HEIGHT for a point guard in the League), was one of the best perimeter defenders in college last year, can score in a myriad of ways and create off the bounce, is one of the fastest players in the draft, and a great athlete to boot. 

In other words, many see him as the second coming of Russell Westbrook.

However prior to Russell Westbrook, players with many of his attributes have also turned into the likes of Keyon Dooling and Dajuan Wagner.

So again, this is the NBA lottery we're talking about here, nothing's guaranteed.

In addition, Avery hardly scored top marks in John Hollinger's recent statistical breakdown of this year's draft prospects.  In fact, he finished with one of the worst scores of the entire class, something which should be a warning sign considering Hollinger flagged DeMar DeRozan last year as being a potential bust.

That being said, combo guards with only a year of college experience have traditionally struggled in Hollinger's system due to lack of data.  The best example of this is the 2008 draft, where Eric Gordon, Westbrook, DJ Augustin and OJ Mayo all received poor scores from Hollinger.  All of course have gone on to at least be productive NBAers and had solid rookie seasons.

So instead of relying on mock drafts and pure analytics, I thought we'd talk to someone who spent the bulk of the year watching Bradley, Wescott Eberts from SB Nation's blog on all things Texas Longhorns, Burnt Orange Nation.

Here's what he had to say:

Clearly, the first thing that deserves mention with Bradley is his defensive ability. At 6-2 with a 6-7.5 wingspan, Bradley excels on the defensive end with his combination of high motor, length, and exceptional lateral quickness. In high school, Bradley often made it difficult for opposing point guards to even bring the ball past halfcourt and in one game forced two timeouts in a half simply by pressuring his opponent one-on-one in the backcourt. With that said, Bradley struggled at times playing the pick-and-roll and, more notably, often got lost his man when playing defense off the ball. Both are areas in which Bradley should improve at the next level because he works hard at being a strong defender.

Offensively, Bradley has made great strides over the last several years, most remarkably in the consistency of his jumpshot. Avery may struggle with the deeper three-point line in the NBA, but his developed mid-range game should translate to the next level. The problem in college for Bradley was that he was extremely streaky and inconsistent. It seemed that if his first shot fell, he had a strong chance at having a good game, but often faded for long stretches and struggled to find a rhythm if his first several attempts didn't fall. He works hard on his jumpshot, but he's not a pure shooter by any means, often missing shots badly and hitting an atrocious 55% from the foul line in his single season at Texas.

The major issue for Bradley is finding a position at the next level -- he's not a point guard and doesn't have ideal height for the shooting guard position. He doesn't have particularly strong handles and is extremely right-hand dominant, showing little ability or inclination to go left and that's going to be a major problem for him. However, Bradley has exceptional straight-line speed -- he will be one of the fastest players in the league and it was impressive watching him blow by his competition in the open court even in a setting like the McDonald's game coming out of high school. Bradley is also an exceptional leaper, posting a vertical of nearly 38 inches in pre-draft workouts and wining the dunk contest at the McDonald's game, but often didn't finish with assertiveness around the rim, settling for layups instead of dunks.

The best-case scenario is that Bradley develops into a sort of Russell Westbrook-light with a better mid-range jumpshot, but Bradley just isn't as strong a finisher around the rim and could struggle when opponents take away his right hand. In addition, he doesn't appear to have great vision and lacks experience running the pick-and-roll and often forced passes unnecessarily, leading to a 1.37 A/TO ratio.

His athleticism and defensive ability give him a relatively high ceiling, but the lack of a true position and inconsistent shooter are truly worrisome. John Hollinger's projected PER doesn't like Bradley much and given his strong track record predicting future NBA success with that metric, I think it's cause for some major concern with Bradley, who probably needed to come back for his sophomore year to improve his ballhandling skills and become a more consistent shooter.

 

A big thanks to Wescott for the incredibly insightful analysis.

So where does that leave us in terms of the HQ's take on Avery as a prospect?

Right now we've got him ranked at number six on our draft board for a variety of reasons, first and foremost, because we're not completely sold on his pro potential.  Unlike Westbrook, who showed at UCLA that he could run a team and had NBA upside, having watched Bradley, I haven't seen the same wow factor, or leadership.  And unlike Westbrook, who was stuck behind Darren Collison, or Rajon Rondo, who was stuck playing the 2 in Tubby's Smith's offense for big chunks of time, Bradley had the reigns himself this past season, and as previously mentioned, couldn't lead a very talented Texas team deep into the tourney. 

As you can see from the following clips put together by Hoopmixtape.com, he's definitely a supreme talent, especially in terms of athletic ability, but the draft is full of athletic marvels who just couldn't put it together at the next level.  (Cough, cough, Gerald Green...)


 

Most important of all though?

I'm just not convinced he'll be around when the Raptors pick. 

ESPN.com already has him going to the Pacers in their latest mock and I'm guessing several other clubs looking for point guards (in a draft with very few quality options at that) will be paying particular attention to him as well.

So even if you buy the Avery hype, something I don't quite subscribe to, then there's a good chance you may still be disappointed come June 24th.

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