The Aztecs have landed a big commitment from two time all Pac-12 player Matt Bradley. Bradley scored 18 points a game last season for the California Golden Bears and will really help the Aztecs offensively next season. He likely slides into the starting shooting guard spot, but at 6’4″, 220 lbs, he can probably play some small forward as well. What specifically does he bring to the team though? Lets take a look.
Everything starts with defense at San Diego State. Players need to defend at a high level if they want to see playing time. How does Bradley stack up? The answer is, pretty well. He has above average marks in Defensive Player Impact Plus Minus (D-PIPM) and Defensive Bayesian Performance Rating (DBPM). Synergy has him in the 46th percentile defensively, which is about average. He gets good marks in spot-up and isolation defense. He hasn’t caused a lot of havoc defensively (steals and blocks), but he won’t burn you on that end. He tends to use his size and his strength to his advantage, and plays a physical style of defense. Plus, players tend to defend better once they start playing for San Diego State, so expect his defense to improve from where it already is.
Bradley is a better offensive than defensive player. He was the offensive centerpiece for Cal, taking a higher percentage of shots for his team than all but 24 other players nationally. He scored 18 points a game on 45% shooting from the floor. On offense he is able to use his size and ball handling skills to bully defenders and get to his spots on the floor. He can score coming off of screens, he is efficient in isolation, and can spot up and hit jump shots from behind the arc. He is a true three level scorer, although he is at his absolute best when attacking closeouts. He actually reminds me a lot of Matt Mitchell. They have very similar skill sets and approaches to the game, Bradley just does it as a guard instead of a power forward.
Despite the high scoring mark, Bradley would likely be best used as a second option offensively. He is going to be at his best attacking a defense that has already been broken. That’s not to say he can’t break a defense himself, cause he absolutely can. The team will have a higher ceiling though if he’s able to be the second option. It will make him more efficient, let him put more energy into defense, and let him bully the opposing teams second best defender.
Assuming the Aztecs don’t get that guy, Bradley will likely have a similar role as Matt Mitchell did last season. He’ll be asked to get into the middle of the defense and make the right play. A lot of the time the right play will be to get a shot up and try to draw contact. Bradley drew 5.7 fouls per 40 minutes last season, good for 88th in the country according to KenPom. For comparison, Mitchell drew 6.3 fouls per 40 minutes. The difference is, he won’t do it by catching the ball at the mid-block and backing his guy down. He’ll either try and isolate or use a screen to lose his man and get into the middle of the floor.
Overall Bradley is a great pickup for the Aztecs. He is a three level scorer who is a solid defender, and can step in and start right away. This likely pushes Adam Seiko down to the 6th man spot coming off the bench, and Keith Dinwiddie will need to find some minutes too. We will likely see Bradley play the small forward role in stints, but his best position is going to be shooting guard.