Celtics Question of the Day: Who will be the go-to guy on C's bench?

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Celtics Question of the Day: Who will be the go-to guy on C's bench?

One of the reasons the Boston Celtics are still on the short list of title contenders is that their bench was significantly bolstered during the offseason.

So much so that when it comes to figuring out who will deliver big among the second unit players, the list of candidates is as deep as we've seen under Doc Rivers.

The safe bet would be to go with Jason Terry, who will reprise a role in Boston that's identical to the one he had - and thrived in - with the Dallas Mavericks.

But the difference-maker for the Celtics this year off the bench will be Courtney Lee. He will begin the season starting in place of an injured Avery Bradley, but Lee understands that his primary role for the C's will be coming off the bench.

And it is a role that Lee should thrive in.

His versatility allows him to play in the backcourt and not be a defensive liability. At his size, he has the length to guard both backcourt positions which should take some of the pressure off of Rajon Rondo or whoever is running the point at that time.

Lee has shot 40-percent or better in three of his four NBA seasons, which includes him shooting 48.5 percent on corner 3s which ranked among the league's best. In addition, his best 3-point shooting quarter last season?

That would be the fourth quarter which is a good thing when you consider the player he is helping the C's move on from - Ray Allen - was often at his best in the final period of play.

Lee will also benefit from a C's squad that will look to run more than they have in the past, which will inevitably result in greater use of the small-ball lineup we saw at times last season. That could result in Lee playing more minutes, possibly at small forward depending on which players their opponents trot on to the floor.

Having that versatility is what gives him an edge in terms of potential minutes over Terry who can play both backcourt positions.

While Lee has quietly gone about establishing himself as a better-than-average 3-point shooter, he's no stranger to attacking the basket. Last season, 32.6 percent of his shots were in the paint or the restricted area which is bump in comparison to former Celtic Ray Allen who took 25.2 percent of his shots from that distance.

So in Lee the Celtics have a player who attacks the rim more, has a steady 3-point shot and gives them some options in terms of what they can do defensively.

And being a "young veteran," Lee (he turns 27 next month) understands that his role will fluctuate between that of a part-time starter and that of a key reserve.

But when all is said and done, the latter is the best role for both Lee and the Celtics moving forward.

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

Bradley's emergence as vocal leader speaks volumes about growth

BOSTON –  Terry Rozier was having a rough stretch where his minutes were limited and when he did play, he didn’t play particularly well.
 
Among the voices in his ear offering words of encouragement was Avery Bradley who knows all too well what Rozier was going through.
 
For all his time as a Celtic, Bradley has let his work on the floor do the talking for him.
 
But as the most tenured Celtic on the roster, his leadership has to be about more than just getting the job done, but servicing as a vocal leader as well.
 
For a player whose growth from one year to the next has been a constant, being a more vocal leader has been the one dynamic of his game that has improved the most during this past season.
 
And it is that kind of leadership that will carry into the summer what is a pivotal offseason for both Bradley and this Celtics franchise which was eliminated by Cleveland in the Conference finals, the first time the Celtics got that deep in the playoffs since 2012.
 
He is entering the final year of the four-year, $32 million contract he signed in 2014. And it comes at a time when his fellow Tacoma, Wash. native and backcourt mate Isaiah Thomas will likely hit free agency where he’s expected to command a max or near-max contract that would pay him an annual salary in the neighborhood of $30 million.
 
At this point in time, Bradley isn’t giving too much thought to his impending contract status.
 
Instead, he’s more consumed by finding ways to improve his overall game and in doing so, help guide the Celtics to what has to be their focus for next season – a trip to the NBA Finals.
 
While Celtics players have said their focus has always been on advancing as far into the playoffs as possible, it wasn’t until this past season did they actually provide hope and promise that Banner 18 may be closer than you think.
 
It was an emotional time for the Celtics, dealing with the unexpected death of Chyna Thomas, the younger sister of Isaiah Thomas, just hours before Boston’s first playoff game this season.
 
And then there were injuries such as Thomas’ right hip strain that ended his postseason by halftime of Boston’s Eastern Conference finals matchup with Cleveland.
 
But through that pain, we saw the emergence of Bradley in a light we have seldom seen him in as a Celtic.
 
We have seen him play well in the past, but it wasn’t until Thomas’ injury did we see Bradley showcase even more elements of his game that had been overlooked.
 
One of the constant knocks on Bradley has been his ball-handling.
 
And yet there were a number of occasions following Thomas’ playoff-ending injury, where Bradley attacked defenders off the dribble and finished with lay-ups and an occasional dunk in transition.
 
Among players who appeared in at least 12 playoff games this year, only Washington’s John Wall (7.9), Cleveland’s LeBron James (6.8) and Golden State’s Stephen Curry (5.2) averaged more points in transition than Bradley (4.7).
 
Bradley recognized the team needed him to be more assertive, do things that forced him to be more front-and-center which is part of his evolution in Boston as a leader on this team.
 
“It’s weird but players like Al (Horford) definitely helped me get out of my shell and pushed me this year to be more of a vocal leader,” Bradley said.
 
And that talent combined with Bradley doing what he does every offseason – come back significantly better in some facet of his game – speaks to how he’s steadily growing into being a leader whose actions as well as his words are impactful.