We have nothing but respect for Avery Bradley. Sure, we will miss him in the team – he is a vital cog in the machine – but he is putting his family first. Minority groups in America and beyond have been proven to be more vulnerable to the worst of the virus. Why would Bradley want to expose his wife and children to a potentially devastating outcome? The response from some fans on Twitter is shocking and uncalled for. Such a reaction does nothing to respect our players and their right to have a life beyond the court. We wish Bradley all the best.
But, it does leave the team with a problem. Who will replace Avery Bradley? Here we look at five potential players who could fill the post – though not easily. Like Magic Johnson, back to his outspoken great, noted on Twitter, “The Lakers losing Avery Bradley is a tough loss and will make it more difficult for them to win the NBA championship.” A stark warning – so, let’s guide you through the options.
We do need to call out Johnson a little. Bradley suffered an injury in November that kept him out for 13 games. The Lakers won 12 out of the 13 games – even without his presence on the court. The coaches’ Plan B worked, bringing in Caldwell-Pope to the starting line-up and increasing Danny Green’s minutes. They also played more of Alex Caruso off the bench. The plan resulted in a class tear of results that showed that no player is more important than the combined strength of a squad. Keeping with this plan will ease any worries of a new player to the team expected to suit up and fit in, playing meaningful minutes in this truncated season. Caldwell-Pope is a natural replacement if looking to strengthen the defence, which would suit Vogel’s mindset the most. He does not need to be on the ball to have an impact and can make a significant difference as a point or shooting guard.
Even with a replacement plan on hand, there will be a need for the coaches and scouts to dip into the free-agent pool. JR Smith is the most likely player on offer that could the most easily replace Bradley on the Lakers roster. Lakers looked to sign him up before when they ended up taking Waiters – so they know what they are going to get with this player. This player makes most sense because he has played alongside LeBron James in the past. If he is to come in and make an immediate impact, he will be helped with his relationship with the court leader. But, it is not a sure thing. He has been playing in China since 2018 and hasn’t seen an NBA starting line up for a long time. Yet, he will bring around the same type of defensive intensity of Avery Bradley and he can still find the rim when he needs to as well.
Waiters has also the experience of working alongside James, which would make an introduction to the team much easier. He also needs some meaningful minutes on court to ease any damage to his reputation after some season errors. Waiters doesn’t have the ability to replace Bradley in a defensive capacity but he will impact the scoring off the bench that could offer some balance. He is like Smith in this way, who also would not be able to fill the point guard position with any reliability. One worry is that Waiters fell into obscurity when he played with James before with a shockingly low point score average. However, he claims he was a kid the last time he played alongside LeBron and he has more court savvy to bring to the role.
If we assume that Vogel will have a natural leaning towards a strong defence, then Caruso will have a definite chance of being the Bradley replacement. He has the best defensive rating with 100.3 – four points better than Bradley himself. He has the eighth-lowest defence rating in the NBA. Therefore, it seems a common-sense decision to increase Caruso’s minutes, especially as he has a considerable record of successful steals and plays well alongside James and Davis. He also has the capacity to bring electricity to the arena, adding some offensive flair that often results in the crowd rising to their feet. There are few downsides to bringing Caruso on for more minutes and this could be the chance for him to rise up the ranks of the greats of the games.
Bradley and Green played alongside each other for much of their minutes – so it seems strange to offer up Danny Green as a natural replacement for Avery Bradley. However, Bradley made most of his impact on the court when playing shooting guard with Green on the bench. Also, when on the court with Green, Bradley rarely took responsibility for initiating an offensive move. Therefore, switching Green to Bradley’s role in the team gives the coaches a lot more options both offensively and defensively. Green may have had a disappointing season to date while shooting, they may want to try to improve his fortunes in the playoffs. In reality, it is Greens 1.2 average of steals that will make him a more natural replacement for Bradley.