Avery Bradley is one of the NBA’s best defenders and pickpockets. He’s so good, in fact, that Boston Celtics head coach Doc Rivers likens being hounded by Bradley to the experience of going up against Scottie Pippen, one of the greatest defensive players of all-time. Per ESPN: “In 33 games this season, Bradley has produced 41 steals. Those 1.2 swipes per contest won’t put him among the league leaders, but it’s how he generates his thefts: hounding or baiting some of the league’s top ball-handlers — often before the midcourt stripe — and picking them clean for easy transition buckets. But that’s only part of Bradley’s defensive game, and his role in stabilizing the Celtics’ season cannot be understated. Boston, a team that has perennially ranked in the top 5 in defensive rating in the Kevin Garnett era, sat 14th in the league with an unsightly defensive rating of 102.1 on Jan. 1, the day before Bradley made his season debut after a pair of offseason shoulder surgeries shelved him for the first 30 games. Since Bradley’s return, Boston boasts a defensive rating of 96.9, the second-best mark in the league in that span (only Indiana has been better). It’s a big reason why, beset by three season-ending injuries including the loss of All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo, the Celtics are 21-13 since that point (and Bradley sat out one of those losses against Chicago). If not for the time he missed, it’s not far-fetched to say that Bradley deserves some consideration for the league’s Defensive Player of the Year award (or a spot on the league’s all-defense team at the very least). [...] ‘Avery’s return was bigger than people know,’ said Rivers. ‘It really was.’ [...] Rivers has taken to comparing Bradley to the likes of Scottie Pippen, Derek Harper, and Alvin Robertson, with Michael Jordan’s former running mate his favorite parallel. ‘It’s like Scottie Pippen — when you played the Bulls, you were praying that, ‘I hope he guards the other guy tonight,’ explained Rivers. ‘Because [Pippen] was one of those guys that could guard the 1, 2, or 3. And you were hoping, ‘OK, I hope [he guards the other guy].’ I mean, how rare is it that you want Michael to guard you? Over Scottie. And I’m thinking that’s Avery, and even Courtney [Lee]. Courtney’s a good defender as well, but they’re probably thinking, ‘I’ll take him over him.’ And [Bradley's] feet are so good. I mean, he stays in front of the ball, he gets up into it, and it’s big for us. He’s really making us a better defensive team.’”