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The Decision: Should Celtics Start Avery Bradley Over Ray Allen?

Avery Bradley has filled in admirably for an injured Ray Allen in the Boston Celtics' starting lineup. So admirably, in fact, that the idea of Bradley starting over Allen is floating around out there. Crazy, isn't it? Actually, it's not as crazy as you think.

April 1, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) is guarded by Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) during the second quarter at TD Banknorth Garden.   Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE
April 1, 2012; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Celtics guard Avery Bradley (0) is guarded by Miami Heat forward LeBron James (6) during the second quarter at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-US PRESSWIRE

What a laughable concept. Ray Allen is a 10-time All-Star, has made more three-pointers than any other man in history and is an NBA champion. Avery Bradley is a 0-time All-Star, has made five threes and has scored 323 career points in 80 games. And people want to actually consider starting Bradley over Allen?

Quite a nonsensical concept, isn't it? Somehow, the idea isn't as crazy as you might think.

Bradley has been playing the best basketball of his career during this current five-game stretch. Upon being thrust into the starting lineup against the Washington Wizards on March 25, Bradley did something that few expected he would ever do (at least efficiently): produce on offense. Bradley was 7-of-7 from the field in the first quarter and scored 15 of his career-high 23 points in the frame to lead Boston past Washington, 88-76.

More: Now Doc says Allen could be coming off the bench

His offensive output in the Celtics' next two games wasn't on par with that of his performance against Washington, scoring 11 and nine points respectively in Boston's wins over the Charlotte Bobcats and Utah Jazz. Bradley's scoring touch returned in the Celtics' next game, a 100-79 blowout win over the Minnesota Timberwolves, in which he scored 17.

On Sunday against the Miami Heat, Bradley did what he specializes in -- play solid defense -- and also had 13 points on 5-of-10 shooting in 36 minutes as Boston upset Miami, 91-72.

"He's played well for them," Heat reserve Shane Battier said about Bradley after the game. "I think they are 13-5 after the break and he's played well, especially in Ray's (Allen) absence."

Battier's right, he has played well. Exceptionally well. As a starter this season, Bradley's numbers per 48 minutes are solid -- he's averaging 14.0 points and 4.2 boards per 48. In the 20 games played after the All-Star break, he's averaging 17.4 points (per 48). As for the month of March, Bradley averaged 17.9 points and shot 53.5 percent (again, per 48).

Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. We are talking about Ray Allen here. Even at age 36, Allen is still a very productive player, shooting a career-high 45.9 percent from long distance while averaging 14.6 points. Allen is clearly the better player, and there really isn't any argument.

But we aren't talking about who is better. We're talking about who should get the start. At this point in Allen's career and where the Celtics are at, there are benefits to giving Bradley the start.

Bradley's speed is a huge benefit, especially for Rajon Rondo (who can't be particularly thrilled with the slower pace of Allen, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett at points). As long as Bradley is hitting his stride offensively, the Celtics would benefit from his minutes as a starter.

Coming off the bench likely wouldn't be fun for Allen, but he would almost certainly spark the second unit, which is down a key scorer in Mickael Pietrus and in constant need of production.

Of course, there's a catch. Bradley can start for the Celtics as long as he's producing, but only for the final month of the regular season. Recent success aside, we're talking about a player who hasn't played a single minute of playoff basketball. Allen, needless to say, has played quite a bit of it. There's no telling how Bradley would react in a postseason starting role. Maybe he would have success, maybe he wouldn't. Better to go with the known than the unknown in that situation.

Doc Rivers is a good coach, and if he thinks starting Bradley would benefit the team, he will do it. It wouldn't be the end of the world to start Bradley now, as long as Allen starts in crunch time.

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