(image by Tomek Kordylewski)
By Jesse Cinquini
The Boston Celtics landed a quartet of promising rookies in the 2019 NBA Draft. Tremont Waters, Grant Williams and Carsen Edwards all boast skill sets that are coveted at the next level. But which has the highest ceiling?
I’d lean towards Romeo Langford, the 20-year-old wing from Indiana University. He’s displayed in bursts the wherewithal to be a difference-maker on both ends. The Playgrounder is set to release a number of rookie review pieces in the near future, and to start things off for the Celtics’ neophytes, let’s break down what Langford brings to the table.
Off Ball Offense
Langford was drafted onto a Boston squad pursuing a championship. Consequently, this meant he had to earn every second of playing time. DNPs were commonplace for Langford throughout the season. The C’s own possibly the best collection of wing talents in the league, so consistent minutes at the position were hard to come by.
Langford averaged just 11 minutes and 2.4 shot attempts with the Celtics. Per Cleaning the Glass, he finished in the sixth percentile among all NBA wings in usage rate. Langford took only 64 shots over the entirety of 2019-20, so we don’t have much of a sample size to work with. That being said though, when viewing film of his buckets, Langford’s upside becomes apparent.
Romeo didn’t have many sets ran for him in Boston. He instead utilized off-ball movement to generate scoring opportunities. Any longtime Celtics fan who watches this kid cut to the rim is guaranteed to get nostalgic flashbacks of a young Avery Bradley. He’s adept at spotting holes in the defense and exploiting them for easy looks inside.
Langford also showcased the capability to convert tough finishes off of drives. This has been a staple of Romeo’s offensive repertoire since college. A speedy first step and superb body control makes him a difficult cover with the rim in his sights. Does he still have room for improvement in this area? Absolutely. Out of Langford’s 30 field-goal attempts within five feet, eight of them were blocked. He certainly struggled against NBA length, but this is a problem that could vanish with time. Romeo’s got a tight handle and he didn’t force his way through imaginary driving lanes, so overall his dribble drive game as a newbie was encouraging.
As for Langford’s perimeter jumper, it’s a work in progress to put it mildly. He didn’t look to score from the outside all that often, but when he did, it usually worked against him. Romeo fared terribly from ten feet out and beyond. Only seven of his 27 tries from said range found the bottom of the net. In order to become a mainstay in Brad Stevens’ rotation, it’s pivotal that Langford develops into an outside threat. Considering his age and work ethic, fans should be confident that he will.
Defensive Activity & Potential
Romeo’s effort or lack thereof on defense was a presumed red flag of his. But since joining the lockdown-oriented Celtics, he’s fully embraced this side of the floor. Standing at 6’5″ with a 6’11” wingspan, Langford has the measurables to stifle opposing wings. Length isn’t everything, though. It’s how he exploits his genetics that allowed him to succeed as a perimeter deterrent. Romeo’s active hands resulted in a number of deflections. He’s got a knack for anticipating passes and coming up with steals.
Langford accumulated a fair amount of highlight-worthy rejections as well, thanks to his aforementioned wingspan and foot speed. Whenever his name was called, you could rely on Romeo to stick with his man and make their life tough. Coach Stevens’ defensive prioritization must have resonated with him, because he’s performed far better than most predicted. Langford surely knew he had to impress in this area if he wanted to see the court.
Offseason To-Do List
Romeo is a promising prospect who can contribute in this league for a long time. Expect him to earn a larger role in Boston by next season, if not sooner. He may be the long-term answer for the C’s sub-par bench unit. Langford’s two-way chops should convince the Celtics to gift him an uptick in minutes sooner rather than later. His talent fits like a glove with Boston’s defensive-minded, versatile personnel.
This offseason, look for Romeo to continue working on his outside shot. He discussed taping a ping pong paddle to his guide hand in order to unlearn some poor mechanics. His shot already looks better and with continued practice he’ll soon reap the benefits. After all, he’s only the “3” away from being a great 3 and D player.