The pre-season juggernaut Golden State Warriors rolled to a 2-0 record Wednesday night, defeating the Denver Nuggets 118-116 in San Francisco. It’s an unusually deep roster for the Warriors, who really only have one roster slot available and a plethora of contenders, though only one Steph Curry-endorsed candidate for the spot, Avery Bradley.
Steph Curry on Avery Bradley: “Bulldog. Everyone asks who is the toughest defenders you’ve had, he’s the first guy that comes to mind.”— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) October 4, 2021
On the 15th spot: “I think that’s why he’s here.” pic.twitter.com/Gozc2x5DJe
Bradley was again the first off the bench, entering midway through the first quarter along with Nemanja Bjelica, and again he was pretty quiet. In 15 minutes, he made his only shot, committed one foul, and put up no other box score stats. But can we take anything away from his early entry into the game?
Probably! Steve Kerr is not only playing Bradley early, he’s playing him with Curry and Draymond Green. Yes, he got beat by Facundo Campazzo on a straight-line dribble-drive to the basket for a wide-open layup, and yes, Bob Fitzgerald was raving about his defense as that was happening. And yes, he didn’t register a single assist or rebound in over a quarter of play. But paradoxically, it feels like that actually helps his case - a guy who’s worried about his roster spot would probably try to snag at least one board.
Bradley is playing with the urgency and passion of a boss’s son on a Friday afternoon workday. He logged a few steals against Portland, but against Denver, his energy looked less like a hungry NBA veteran fighting to keep his career alive, and more like a guy pretending to jog while jaywalking through an intersection, raising a hand to signal “My bad!” while avoiding eye contact. It helps that Mychal Mulder is still eligible for the Warriors second two-way contract slot, Chris Chiozza has the other two-day deal, and Langston Galloway is the one player on the Warriors not making threes, besides Avery Bradley himself.
It’s possible the Warriors go with Jordan Bell due to their almost total lack of big man depth, but it really feels like Bradley has been designated for the Brad Wanamaker Memorial roster spot, - the guy who brings the ball up for the first six minutes of the second quarter and hates shooting the ball. Ideally that’s Andre Iguodala’s role, but he’s the second-oldest player in the NBA, and he’s already resting for April.
Now, Bradley does have a good defensive reputation, and was first-team All-Defense in 2015-16. And it’s true that he has generally had unimpressive box score stats. But he also has had unimpressive advanced stats. Bradley has never had a positive net rating in any of his 11 seasons, despite being on contending teams. People say his contributions are intangible, and that must be the case because in the past five years, he’s only been above average in Defensive Box Plus/Minus in 2019-20, when he mostly played alongside stellar defenders LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Danny Green.
Do the Warriors care about advanced metrics? Maybe, but not as much as they care about their star player’s comfort. It’s the 15th spot on the roster, after all. And after an uninspiring series of win-later moves to add teenagers to the roster, Bob Myers may let Steph Curry have the backup point guard he wants. If nothing else, it’s one more guy who can talk to Steph about being alive in the ‘90s, something most of their new players know nothing about. And now that Bradley has been quoted saying, “No offense, [Golden State is] one of the best organizations in the NBA from top to bottom,” you can safely pencil him into the 15th spot.
Avery Bradley said "no offense" to the other NBA teams he's been with, but Golden State is "one of the best organizations in the NBA from top to bottom."— Kerith Burke (@KerithBurke) October 7, 2021
Enjoy the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, Mychal Mulder!