The Los Angeles Lakers will struggle to replace the defensive expertise of Avery Bradley when the NBA resumes later this month, believes former Chicago Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong.
Bradley has opted not to compete when the league restarts in Orlando due to his son’s struggles with respiratory illnesses in the past.
The 29-year-old has asserted himself as one of the top perimeter defenders in the NBA, starting 44 games for the Lakers and averaging 8.6 points per game prior to the season’s suspension.
His absence has resulted in the Lakers pursuing a deal for former Cleveland Cavaliers Championship winner JR Smith as they prepare for their first game back against the Los Angeles Clippers.
“I think he has a significant presence because he’s the only player on that team in my opinion that can defend those smaller, quick point guards,” Armstrong said on Sky Sports’ Heatcheck.
“Defensively I think that’s where they’re going to miss him the most because of what he brings on that end. He’s a tough nose defender, he was beginning to shoot the ball well and he is the only player that can defend those small guards so I think it’s going to make it more difficult for them to win minus Avery Bradley.
“I don’t want to undervalue what he brings to the game. He’s a tough player, I love what he brings. His mental toughness and defensively he will be really missed by the Lakers moving forward.”
The Lakers sat at the top of the Western Conference prior to the league’s hiatus, leading the Clippers by 5.5 games amid their pursuit of a first NBA Championship since the 2009-10 season.
Heatcheck regulars Ovie Soko and Mo Mooncey highlighted the presence of Danny Green, Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Alex Caruso in potentially compensating for the loss of Bradley. However Armstrong believes the former Boston Celtics guard will still be sorely missed.
“I think as the game now has progressed to what you see offensively, it’s a premium now on shooting, especially on the offensive end,” added Armstrong.
“The most important thing is defensively how you’re going to be able to pressure the ball and extend your defense. Avery Bradley was the one that initiated them on the defensive end so I think that will be missed deeply.
“It’s not going to be guys out there shooting threes. Who’s going to get those loose balls? Who’s going to fight out those screens? That’s the difference to me between winning and losing.
“He brings a level of toughness I don’t think you can really replace and I think they’re going to miss him as they advance.”