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Quick: Name the youngest player to receive a vote for 2013 Defensive Player of the Year. It wasn't Serge Ibaka, Paul George or Larry Sanders, all of whom are under 25 and have been rewarded with lucrative contract extensions. The answer? Celtics guard Avery Bradley, whose hellish on-ball pressure—quick feet, low stance, active hands, terrific anticipation—earned him five votes (including two for first place), putting him above the likes of Tyson Chandler and Dwight Howard.
And now with Boston's blowing up its roster—plus Rajon Rondo's continued absence after right-ACL surgery—the 22-year-old Bradley will see his role expanded. He'll serve as the lead guard on offense and show that his on-the-ball D will work without much back-line support (read: Kevin Garnett).
The good news is that with no pressure to win now, Bradley will have the freedom to blossom on both ends. Ranked ahead of John Wall by some analysts while both were in high school, Bradley has attempted fewer shots combined in three years (947) than the Wizards' point guard did in his rookie season (972). The gutted Celtics will now get the chance to see whether Bradley can 1) consistently turn his quickness into high-percentage opportunities at the rim and 2) develop a more reliable jump shot. If he can learn to do both, it would do wonders for speeding up Boston's rebuilding process.
COACH BRAD STEVENS (1ST SEASON WITH CELTICS)
2012--13 RECORD 41--40 (3RD IN ATLANTIC)
WHAT'S NEW Stevens takes over for Doc Rivers, but he won't have mainstays Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett.
PROJECTED LINEUP (2012--13 STATS)