During the 2010 NBA Draft last June the Celtics were a team clouded with uncertainty. Doc Rivers wasn't sure if he was going to return as head coach. Paul Pierce had an opt-out clause in his contract. Ray Allen was being wooed secretly by LeBron James as a free agent. Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels were testing the free agent waters while the rest of the roster was a huge question mark.
Speaking of huge, Shaquille O'Neal wasn't even on the radar yet and Jermaine O'Neal was just initially being discussed internally. One of the bigger surprises on draft night was when they used their 19th overall pick on the University of Texas guard Avery Bradley. Just one selection later, the shrewd RC Buford selected Oklahom State swingman James Anderson, prompting many to scratch their heads as to why Danny Ainge didn't select Anderson as a possible short and long term replacement for Ray Allen.
In the little time Bradley has played, we can begin to see why he was selected. From the onset, Doc and the organization lauded his exceptional defense, saying it was NBA ready before he had even played in a summer league game. Bradley missed the summer league due to ankle surgery, but now that he is getting healthier, the other tandem of guards have kept Ed Lacerte busy.
Rajon Rondo is dealing with a strained left hamstring and plantar fasciitis. Nate Robinson is playing through a sore foot/ankle. And despite the great news that Delonte West may return a lot sooner from his broken right wrist, his absence will be glaring as the season (and excessive minutes to the regulars) wears on.
Enter Avery Bradley who will get some burn. It may be in short spurts here and there, but from the limited court time he's had, he's proven Doc's advertisement to be true. Check out the clips below to see for yourself how impressive his defense is not only for a rookie, but for any player.
Avery Bradley Defense Part 1 (Q4 @ Atlanta Hawks)– It's extended garbage time at Phillips Arena in the ATL, but Bradley is finally getting some run. In this first example, he rushes to guard Jamal Crawford on a loose ball, and comes up with the quick and sneaky steal, avoiding the foul and causing the turnover:
Avery Bradley Defense Part 2 (Q4 @ Atlanta Hawks) - Earlier in the 4th quarter, Bradley picks up Crawford full court staying in front of him. As Crawford crosses half court, Bradley checks behind him on both sides while keeping an eye on Crawford. He stays low with his feet spread out and hands spread out and palms open keeping a quick steal as an option. He fights through two screens from Jason Collins, recovering quickly back to Crawford to bother his rhythm just enough. He shows his good footwork/defensive reading skills by being able to go under the first screen, then over the second screen effectively.
Avery Bradley Defense Part 3 (Q4 @ Atlanta Hawks) – A little later in the 4th quarter, Bradley is keeping an eye on his man (Crawford) who is camping on the baseline waiting to jack up a three. As Mo Evans splits the Von Wafer/Semih Erden double team, Bradley recognizes and jumps out on Evans, avoiding the foul and disrupting Evans' lay-up attempt.
Avery Bradley Defense Part 4 (Q1 @ New Jersey Nets) – With just under 9 seconds left to play in the first quarter against the Nets, Doc subs in Bradley to check Jordan Farmar on the final possession. Bradley displays some solid lateral movement with his feet, and fights through the Derrick Favors high screen to recover to Farmar. Farmar is able to get by Bradley but not effectively enough as Bradley recovers in time to challenge his lay-up.
Avery Bradley Defense Part 5 (Q2 @ New Jersey Nets) – As the second quarter begins, Avery picks up Farmar with some full court pressure. Once again he uses his feet to recover (instead of his hands, grabbing onto Farmar like a lot of guards do) and doesn't simply funnel Farmar to the middle. He displays his abilities to make himself small and avoid the screen by Favors just enough so that Favors has to hedge out too much, thus setting an illegal screen. Bradley successfully draws the offensive foul.
Avery Bradley Defense Part 6 (Q2 @ New Jersey Nets) - Later on in the 2nd quarter, Bradley once again picks up Farmar this time at 3/4 court. Initially he plays him straight up, then realizing that Farmar is right-handed, he angles his stance to force Farmar to dribble with the left hand. As Farmar crosses half court, Johan Petro sets the screen on Avery who once again does a great job of making himself small and fighting over the screen, recovering quickly back to Farmar, not even needing to switch with Big Baby. Farmar is forced to switch to his left and reset the offense. The whole sequence takes a good 10 seconds away from New Jersey's set, forcing them to a second option and an eventual turnover.
Avery Bradley Defense Part 7 (Q2 @ New Jersey Nets)– On the next Nets possession, Avery is keeping an eye on Farmar who is set in the corner. He stays aware of his man and the ball, and as Farmar gets the ball then waits for the Favors screen, Bradley once again goes over the screen well to recover and challenge Farmar's pick-and-pop jumper. Farmar misses the jumper and just about the only error Bradley makes here is challenging with the right hand and not the left (since Farmar is right-handed). This is probably too difficult to do in this scenario however.
Avery Bradley Defense Part 8 (Q2 @ New Jersey Nets) – Not a great defensive sequence, but one that illustrates his hustle. After missing a jumper, he doesn't loaf back on defense, in fact tries to stop Devin Harris immediately at 3/4 court. Harris gets by him but Bradley avoids the foul and even though the speedy Harris gets by him and attacks the rim. Avery keeps hustling to catch him and eventually makes a play on the lay-up, at least letting Harris know that it won't be easy… Harris misses the lay-up.
Avery Bradley Defense Part 9 (Q4 @ New Jersey Nets)– Mid-way through the fourth quarter, Avery picks up Stephen Graham at half court. Graham is bigger than Crawford, Farmar and Harris but Bradley keeps Graham in front of him with his quick and alternating feet, disrupting any thoughts Graham had of running a play. The Nets score here, but not before Graham clearly gives the ball up, not wanting any of that.
Avery Bradley Defense Part 10 (Q4 @ New Jersey Nets)– With about 4 minutes to go in a blowout of a game, Bradley displays probably the most impressive defensive effort yet. After hustling to tip-in a missed Marquis Daniels break-away lay-up, he doesn't hang around and pound his chest in celebration. Instead, he hustles back on defense, and pick up Stephen Graham again at half court. Graham tries several times to angle past him, and even backs him down in the post, using his size mismatch. But Bradley keeps a low center of gravity, doesn't fully commit to the up-fake, gets his long arms in the air and eventually ties him up for the jump ball. Exceptional effort.
Avery Bradley Defense Part 11 (Q4 @ New Jersey Nets) – With just over a minute remaining in the game, Bradley once again doesn't shy away from the bigger Stephen Graham. Graham tries to back him down again, this time Avery tries to draw the offensive foul. Here is where he needs some work, as he sort of flails backwards instead of taking a charge. It does go to show that he is a shrewd defensive player and is being mindful of who he is checking. Still, very good work from the rookie.