The Memphis Grizzlies acquired Avery Bradley, who was frustrated with his role, from the Los Angeles Clippers before the 2019 NBA trade deadline.
During his second game with the Grizzlies, the wing scored 33 points while shooting 3-of-5 (60.0 percent) from downtown. It was a curious change of pace considering how poorly he had performed with his previous team.
Bradley had his own theory about the turnaround, telling reporters about the role he expects to play on Memphis for the remainder of the season (via Grind City Media):
“[Coach] just told me he wants me to go out there and play basketball, get back to playing like myself. When I was [on the] Clippers, my role was so limited. I was the cutter and a guy that just really sat in a corner… [JB Bickerstaff] wants me to get back to playing how I played in Boston. Hearing that was like a breath of fresh air for me. I know I’m going to play harder on the defensive end every single night, but I needed that confidence to go out there and start making shots, start playing how I used to.”
This was a particularly fascinating answer from Bradley, who finished just 9.3 percent of his possessions as a cutter during his 55 total games while on the Clippers.
When examining his play type breakdown on Synergy Sports, we were able to compare how often he was used as a cutter with how often he finished possessions as a spot-up shooter.
Despite what he told Memphis reporters, his frequency finishing possessions on cutters was not significantly higher than it was in Boston.
However, he is correct in saying he’s not as productive as a cutter. Looking at his numbers based on efficiency this season, Bradley ranked just in the ninth percentile on this play type with the Clippers. That means nine out of every 10 NBA players were more productive when cutting to the basket.
Bradley was used far more often as a spot-up shooter, which is likely what he was referring to when he said he was just sitting in a corner waiting for his shot.
Almost one-fifth of his shots were on corner three-pointers for the Clippers this season, per Cleaning the Glass. That is the second-highest frequency of his career thus far. Plus, he shot 35 percent on those attempts, which ranks in the 29th percentile. That means seven of 10 players at his position have been more accurate.
Perhaps it makes sense that Bradley was frustrated with his role with the Clippers considering he was ineffective on cuts and on corner threes. However, he was given several other opportunities to showcase his skill set where he also failed to impress.
Kevin O’Connor argued that the 28-year-old was actually given too diverse of an offense under coach Doc Rivers (via The Ringer):
“He ran a lot of pick-and-roll. He ran too much pick-and-roll. That was the problem. The problem is that he was not in the corner enough. He had too many dribble handoffs. He had too many pick-and-rolls. He had too many off screens. It’s like, dude, that’s not your game.”
This year, Bradley was averaging his highest frequency finishing possessions as the ball-handler in a pick-and-roll offense since the 2013-14 season. But in terms of efficiency, he ranked in the 30th percentile among all players.
He also finished possessions on handoffs at the second-highest rate of his career, yet he was averaging 0.46 points per possession in this offense —which ranked last overall among all NBA players who have had at least 50 opportunities on this play type.
Bradley may be correct that he was misused by the Clippers. But the problem was not too many cuts to the basket or too many corner three-pointers. The issue is that when he was asked to do tougher tasks, he came up short.