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Boston Celtics: Player With the Most to Prove Next Season

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COMMENTARY | The Boston Celtics, for the first time in years, will enter this season without having future Hall of Famers Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett on their roster. As this group could no longer compete for a championship, we saw the end of an era as Danny Ainge sent Pierce, Garnett and Jason Terry to the Brooklyn Nets.

Looking forward, the franchise will have to figure out whom it can lean on.

Avery Bradley is a player that the Celtics will need to take on a heavier load in years to come. This isn't completely new for Bradley, who was named the starting shooting guard after Ray Allen left in free agency. Even before Allen went to the Heat, Bradley was taking over the starting role next to Rajon Rondo with very little experience under his belt.

Many fans forget that Bradley is still just 22 years old and has only played in 145 regular season games in his 3 seasons. Not to mention, he saw extremely limited time in his rookie year.

In a backcourt that now features Bradley, Rondo, Jordan Crawford, Courtney Lee, and the recently acquired MarShon Brooks, there will be plenty of competition for minutes, assuming that no one is traded. With Rondo possibly missing some of the season while recovering from injury, Bradley will be looked at to step up. He is the player with the most to prove on the Boston Celtics for the following reasons.

Bradley needs to prove his shooting ability

The first question surrounding the pairing of Rondo and Bradley is the lack of shooting. Much has been made of Rondo's lack of perimeter shooting, and it seems like it is probably a long-term issue at this point.

Bradley's shooting is still a question mark. He shot just 31.7% from three last season, after shooting an impressive 40.7% the previous season. When Rondo is back on the court creating easier shots, it would be hard to believe that Bradley will shoot just 31.7% from 3 again.

However, to make this pairing work, Bradley will have to transform from a decent open shooter to someone who makes the defense react on the perimeter. While his cutting off the ball is extremely valuable, he needs to be more of a threat from three.

Can Bradley manage ball-handling duties?

Despite entering the league as a point guard, Bradley's ball handling needs plenty of work. This was evident last season when he had to run the offense with Rondo injured. The offense struggled severely, as Bradley was unable to really create offense for himself or for others.

This won't be as big of an issue when Rondo returns. Regardless, Bradley's ball handling needs to improve to a point where the Celtics can feel comfortable without a third point guard on the roster. They clearly believed Bradley could handle it going into last season, and they ended up getting burned.

As someone who entered the league as a point guard, Bradley needs to prove that he can manage part-time ball-handling duties.

Avery Bradley is finally healthy; now what?

After his second year in the league, and his first year of significant playing time, Bradley was recovering from an injury that caused him to miss the Eastern Conference finals against the Miami Heat. The injury carried over to this past season, where he only played in 50 games.

Now, Avery Bradley is healthy with a role secured and playing time under his belt. He knows exactly what he has to improve on to take the next step as a key member of this young Boston team. If he enters next season without improvement in a few areas, Celtics management will have to begin questioning their commitment to him.

The Boston Celtics need Avery Bradley to prove that he can live up to the potential that he has flashed over the past few years.

If Bradley doesn't prove the he can coexist with Rajon Rondo in the backcourt, it may mean that Danny Ainge will look to move one of them. Ainge has said several times that he wants to build this team around Rondo, meaning that Bradley could be the one more likely to go.

Clearly, Avery Bradley has plenty to prove.

Mark lives in the Boston area and has been covering the Celtics for 3 years. He has been featured on Fox Sports Yardbarker, Fox Sports, and Sports Illustrated "Hot Clicks", and has been published on Celtics 24/7, Bleacher Report, and Sports-Kings.

Follow him on Twitter here.

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