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Romeo Langford’s defensive impact mirrors Avery Bradley’s early start

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Avery Bradley’s 2010-11 rookie season parallels Romeo Langford’s and the Celtics coaching staff should be excited by his defensive potential

NBA: Orlando Magic at Boston Celtics David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports

As a top-rated guard from Findlay Prep and one season in the Big 12 with the Texas Longhorns, Avery Bradley was selected by the Celtics with the 19th overall pick in the 2010 draft. Boston picked Bradley with the hopes of eventually sliding him into the vacated defensive specialist role vacated by Tony Allen whom departed to Memphis in free agency. However, Avery would not get a whole lot of reps in Boston in his rookie season.

Bradley had ankle surgery on July 2nd, 2010, the same day he signed his rookie contract after suffering an injury in Oklahoma during pre-draft workouts. He missed Summer League and the start of training camp, but thankfully as a 19-year old, he managed to land on a stacked roster vying for the Eastern Conference crown.

Not a great deal was expected from AB as a rookie, as the 2010-11 Celtics squad was full of talent and locked in to battle the likes of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, and Chris Bosh in Miami. Boston had plenty of options backing up Ray Allen with an assortment of established role players. Still, it was tough on Bradley who would have to learn from the sidelines and wait for his time to get a chance.

With only a small sample to draw from as a rookie, the 6’3 Bradley did show flashes of elite defensive instincts early on in Maine and that smooth pull up jumper was already in his repertoire. That mid-range J would develop even more and eventually extend beyond the 3-point arc as his career progressed. He was tenacious on the defensive side of the floor and although he only played nine games, Avery averaged 3 steals while distributing 5.2 assists per outing.

Avery’s tenure in green lasted seven seasons and provided many fond memories for Celtics fans. Bradley was ever the good soldier and his quiet and considered demeanor off the court belied that intense and competitive defensive nature on the court.

NBA: Playoffs-Cleveland Cavaliers at Boston Celtics Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

Fast forward a decade.

Romeo Langford was a former Indiana Mr. Basketball playing for New Albany High School and a highly ranked prospect in his 2019 college class. Despite playing through a hand injury for most of his freshman year at Indiana, the athletic 6’4 shooting guard was drafted by the Celtics 14th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft.

In similar fashion to Bradley, Langford joined a team with depth in place at the wing position and championship aspirations in mind. Langford would rehab from hand surgery immediately after the draft and found himself under no real pressure to contribute from Day 1.

2019 Las Vegas Summer League - Day 2 Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images

With a log jam of wings, Langford was assigned to the Maine Red Claws early on for a total of seven games in 2019-20 where he averaged 10.6 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. Romeo’s Red Claw debut was eye popping, logging a staggering 6 blocks, nabbing 5 rebounds, and posting 27 points. The athletic abilities were evident from chase down blocks and the ability to attack the basket and get to the line.

With Boston’s consistent injury struggles this past season, Langford managed to carve a spot in the rotation more and more as the season progressed, thanks in large part to his defensive instincts. While Avery Bradley never really saw the court to finish his first season with the Celtics, Langford saw extended time during a recent February stretch. He had a 15-point outburst against the Hawks on February 7th and performed admirably in some key minutes in a pressure cooker matchup against LeBron and the Lakers at Staples Center.

Langford displayed an ability to defend as teams looked to test him as a rookie. He earned praise from Brad Stevens following a 127-117 road win over the Timberwolves.

“When [teams] isolate him late, I feel really good about Romeo being isolated,” said Stevens. “He’s got great length, great agility.”

Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images

It is difficult to chart the future progression of a player, but Boston might just be the right situation for Langford; he can earn minutes as he develops and as he gains trust from the coaching staff. “It’s good that (Stevens) already, like, trusts me,” Langford said. “So I’ve just got to go out there and deliver.”

Langford’s athletic instincts and 6’11 wingspan were on display in his maiden season. However, he will need to learn to stagger and slow his pace down and let the game come to him more. As he develops that three-point stroke, he will learn to utilize his quick first step to attack closeouts and drive to the basket, playing through contact, and getting to the foul line. For Romeo to have a long and successful Celtics career and make a name for himself though, it will be on the defensive end, just like another former homegrown shooting guard, Avery Bradley.