Tony Bradley was the only McDonald’s All-American to join the 2016 UNC draft class. Coming out of Bartow High School in Bartow, Florida, he was the No. 17 recruit in the nation in the ESPN 100 rankings.
During a rough time for UNC with the academic scandal looming over the program, Bradley decided to commit to UNC regardless which may have been just what the program needed to potentially lure more top 25 recruits into the program after struggling to do so just a year ago.
One of the bigger stories surrounding Tony Bradley when he arrived at UNC is that he did not end up starting for the team. This is because seniors Kennedy Meeks and Isaiah Hicks were the two big men Roy Williams decided to start with for the 2016-17 season as they were not only the best fit for the starter roles, but because of the composition of all of the big men on the team, there wasn’t exactly going to be any shortage of playing time.
Isaiah Hicks had been known to find himself in a bit of foul trouble on a regular basis, and Kennedy Meeks, while much improved since he got to campus, still wasn’t someone you wanted on the court for an overly large amount of time. Tony Bradley would get his minutes, and when he did, he was a big contributor to UNC winning their 6th NCAA National Championship.
When talking about recruits on any level, the natural order of breaking down someone’s game usually starts with strengths and then explain the weaknesses. With Tony Bradley, you almost have to start backwards in explaining both of these because some of his weaknesses aren’t so bad that they will stay weaknesses for very long.
One of Bradley’s biggest weaknesses would be his athleticism. During the NBA Combine, Bradley had the worst vertical leap of all centers at 24.5”. A lot of what he is able to do in the post comes from him being long and quick.
His lack of leaping ability definitely hurt him at times during the season against players that were as big or maybe even a little bigger than him. Wherever he ends up getting drafted, he will definitely have to hit the gym to try to develop a more explosive takeoff at the rim.
Speaking of the gym, Tony Bradley is also a smaller center weight-wise. This caused issues for Bradley when he would try to post-up on a defender, as there were a fair number of post players that were stronger / bigger than him in college.
It wasn’t such a huge problem that he got dominated, but you could definitely tell on some plays that he had to put in a little more work down low than an Isaiah Hicks or Kennedy Meeks to get the shot he wanted.
Another weakness for Tony Bradley would have to be his defense. During the draft process, Tony Bradley made it a point to say that he saw himself as a stretch 4 or stretch 5 player in the NBA. While his offensive prowess remains to be seen, we got a decent idea of his mid-range and perimeter defense during the season.
Whenever a defender managed to get Bradley far enough away from the restricted area, he almost looked like he didn’t know how to defend at times. When it came to defending the perimeter, there were times where he actually didn’t defend at all.
The shooter would pull up for his shot and Bradley’s hands never went up, and he would start making his way to the rim instead for a potential rebound. Being a stretch 4 or 5 in the NBA means playing offense and defense, so we will see if he will figure out a way to work on his defensive game against NBA centers.
While one of Tony Bradley’s weaknesses may be his athleticism, one of his biggest strengths is his size and length. At 6’10 with a wingspan of 7’5”, Tony Bradley was absolutely able to get it done around the rim on the college level in scoring and rebounding.
Most notable about his size when it came to rebounding was his ability to use his length to his advantage when boxing out players for rebounds or attempting to box out defenders and call for the ball. When he came down with offensive rebounds, Bradley knew how to keep the ball high and away from defenders to give himself the best opportunity to score. He definitely could use his size to his advantage a lot more than he does, but it shouldn’t be a big problem for him to figure out at the next level.
Another one of Tony Bradley’s strengths would be his motor/ability to get up and down the court. While on the offensive side of the ball, it was rare that you saw Bradley not moving to either help create a play for someone else or to create a play for himself. Whoever was defending Bradley at any given time definitely had their work cut out for them, as his motor rarely slowed down.
In Roy Williams’ system, Roy loves playing fast. Whenever someone gets a rebound on the defensive end, the goal is to get the ball down the court and into the basket as quickly as possible before the defense can get set.
In these situations, Tony Bradley ran the floor really, really well. This is a huge trait to have, especially at the NBA level, as the game becomes as fast as Bradley had become accustomed to at UNC. He should have no issues getting down the court and trying to make something happen.
Tony Bradley’s offensive game is where he shines the most. As I mentioned before, there are certain areas where he may struggle creating offense in the NBA in terms of physicality, but from what Bradley has said himself we may not have seen the full extent of his game.
What we do know is that he was absolutely able to produce offense with UNC, averaging 19 ppg per 40 minutes. Just about all of Bradley’s production came from the post at UNC, but he did make a couple 15 foot jumpers as well.
His mid-range shot looks good, but given the limited amount of shots taken it remains to be seen how dangerous he can be from mid/long range. If he can be the player that he says he can be in the NBA, he will certainly make a name for himself for whichever team picks him up.
Tony Bradley wore pink sneakers throughout his UNC career in honor of his great-grandmother, Flossie, who died from breast cancer.