Donovan Mitchell: Avery Bradley's Defense Forced Me to Change My Game

Exploring the unheralded impact of Avery Bradley's defense.

by Nouman Rasool
Donovan Mitchell: Avery Bradley's Defense Forced Me to Change My Game
© Michael Reaves/Getty Images

In the high-stakes world of the NBA, where every dribble and dash can be the difference between victory and defeat, few matchups capture the imagination quite like those between an unstoppable force and an immovable object.

For Cleveland Cavaliers standout Donovan Mitchell, known for his agility and scoring prowess, one such adversary stands out: Avery Bradley, whose defensive skills have left an indelible mark on Mitchell's approach to the game.

Speaking candidly on the "Club 520" podcast, Mitchell, affectionately dubbed "Spida" for his spider-like agility on the court, opened up about the challenges of facing Bradley, a player so adept defensively that he forced Mitchell to reconsider his role on the floor.

"Avery Bradley... I had to stop bringing the ball up the court because he was on the floor," Mitchell confessed, a testament to Bradley's defensive acumen. This revelation came during a nostalgic look back at Mitchell's early years in the league, specifically a 2017-18 season matchup between Mitchell's then-team, the Utah Jazz, and Bradley's Detroit Pistons.

Despite Mitchell's eventual rise to a five-time All-Star, Bradley's defense in their encounters proved a formidable obstacle, showcasing a level of intensity and prowess that even the most skilled players found daunting.

Bradley's Defensive Mastery

Bradley, who earned the nickname "The Pitbull" from none other than NBA legend Kevin Garnett, has been recognized for his defensive skills, albeit not as frequently as some believe he deserves.

With only two All-Defense Team selections to his name (second team in 2013 and first team in 2016), Bradley's contribution to the defensive side of the game has often flown under the radar, despite acknowledgment from peers like Mitchell and Austin Rivers, who lauded Bradley as one of the league's top defenders for several years.

Mitchell's encounter with Bradley serves as a vivid illustration of the respect and rivalry that fuels the competitive spirit of the NBA. Despite a challenging game where Mitchell was held to 15 points on 6-for-21 shooting in their first matchup, he showed resilience in their subsequent encounter, contributing to a commanding 110-79 victory for the Jazz.

This experience, as shared by Mitchell, underscores not only the tactical battles within the game but also the personal growth and adaptation required to excel at the highest level of basketball. As Bradley steps away from the court, his legacy, particularly his defensive mastery that once made an up-and-coming star rethink his strategy, remains a fascinating chapter in the annals of NBA lore.

It's a reminder that in the world of professional basketball, it's not just the points you score but the challenges you overcome that define your career.