The Boston Celtics shooting guard, whose postseason injury all but destroyed the team’s hopes of escaping the first round, has his sights set on winning next year’s Defensive Player of the Year award, per ESPN.com’s Chris Forsberg:
Avery Bradley: "That's my goal: To be Defensive Player of the Year. I feel like it's possible for me … with the right mindset."
— Chris Forsberg (@ESPNForsberg) August 29, 2016
Such a goal would typically be considered unrealistic for a perimeter defender. Defensive Player of the Year honors used to be reserved almost exclusively for bigs.
But times have changed.
Kawhi Leonard, a perimeter-oriented defender, has taken home each of the last two distinctions. His runner-up in both years, Draymond Green, also isn’t your typical big man. So someone like Bradley has a chance.
Whether Bradley himself actually has a shot is a different story. He is almost criminally underrated in the defensive department. He matches up against point guards, shooting guards and small forwards, and while he’s never making the kind of “LeBron James Stopper” noise that Leonard does, he’s seldom torched by opponents, however talented they might be.
If there was ever a season for him to enter this discussion, though, the 2016-17 campaign might be it. The Celtics just lost Evan Turner, who was crucial to their defensive schemes. A combination of Bradley, rookie Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart will have to fill that void, which creates an opportunity for Bradley to shine in a way he hasn’t yet.
Failing actual consideration for a Defensive Player of the Year—or even All-Defensive—nod, at least Bradley has goals. You have to respect that.