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Checking in on Tony Bradley’s Development

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He’s becoming a perfect backup center for Rudy Gobert

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Utah Jazz Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Ed Davis is a better basketball player than Tony Bradley. We knew that coming in to the season and I don’t think there’s any questioning that now. Ed’s had a lot of success as a rotational NBA player and Utah wanted him to do it here.

But now Tony Bradley is getting those minutes and Davis is getting DNP’d. Why? How are Bradley’s advanced numbers so much better?

Fit matters.

Bradley was always going to take a few years of developing when Dennis Lindsey selected him back in 2017. And then when it was indeed taking a few years, people started calling him a bust or waste of a pick. He’s been hard at work and that’s starting to pay off. An opportunity came knocking and he pounced. There’s a reason his minutes have been more productive than Davis’. Honestly, he’s a better backup center for Rudy Gobert than you realize.

Pick and Roll

Points per possession as the roll man:

  • Rudy Gobert 1.14
  • Tony Bradley 1.54
  • Ed Davis 0.60
  • 2019 Derrick Favors 1.19

Surprisingly, Tony Bradley is 5th in the NBA among players with a roll man frequency of at least 10%. Fifth overall! The Utah Jazz run a ton of pick and roll. If it doesn’t work, they whip around and do it again. And again. And again. If you want to be a big man in the Jazz offense, you have to be proficient as a roll man. Unfortunately, Ed Davis is not. Tony Bradley, however, has been really good.

Screen Assists

Screen assists per 36 minutes:

  • Rudy Gobert 8.2
  • Tony Bradley 7.1
  • Ed Davis 5.4
  • 2019 Derrick Favors 2.8

Speaking of running the pick and roll, you also have to set screens in Quin Snyder’s offense. And set another one, and another one, and another until the defense dies. Not really, but sort of. Gobert leads the league yet again with 287 screen assists, nearly 40 more than the next closest. Bradley’s 7.1 per 36 minutes ties himself for, wait for it, 2nd in the NBA among players with at least 150 minutes played. So he’s following in the big Frenchman’s footsteps and setting massive and effective screens.

Defensive Field Goal Percentage

How well opposing players shoot against the defense:

  • Rudy Gobert 39.1%
  • Tony Bradley 42.6%
  • Ed Davis 48.5%
  • Derrick Favors 40.8%

Gobert defends more field goals than anyone else in the league. That’s even after many players completely avoid an open lane when they remember he’s down there. (That’s one of my very favorite things to watch by the way) And he’s holding them to sub 40% shooting. That’s just ridiculous! Dare I say stifling! When in position, Tony Bradley is also becoming a solid defender himself. I say when in position because he has fouling problems. That being said, I can’t even count the number of times Bradley has remained vertical and defended perfectly only to get a whistle anyways. Is Bradley as good at defending the rim as Rudy? No, but no one else on the planet is either.

Rebounding

Total rebounding percentage:

  • Rudy Gobert 20.6%
  • Tony Bradley 17.7%
  • Ed Davis 17.4%
  • 2019 Derrick Favors 15.2%

Ed Davis is an excellent rebounder. He’s been an elite rebounder in the NBA for a long time. Somehow Tony Bradley is even out rebounding Davis this year. Again, I think Ed Davis is the better player and better rebounder in general. But something Tony does works within Utah’s system better.

I was a believer in Bradley when the Jazz made him the 28th overall pick a few years ago. I also started to wane in my belief when his development seemed too slow and athleticism too limited. I was excited when the Jazz signed Ed Davis to be the discount version of Derrick Favors. Turns out that was Tony instead. He’s providing important bench minutes for a playoff team that’s won 14 of their last 15 games. Who would’ve thought that when this season began?

The way he’s playing, he looks like he could become Rudy’s backup center for years to come.