Romeo Langford remains an enigma. A legendary high school scorer in Indiana, a slasher in college, and now a defensive menace in the NBA. There was always going to be a teething period for the former Hoosier, missing pre-season and rebuilding his shot with a ping pong paddle ensured that. And while we’re yet to see the scoring upside that made Langford seem like a steal with the 14th pick in last summer’s draft, he’s learned how to secure minutes within the Celtics rotation.
Within the NBA bubble, Langford has had multiple opportunities to impress, and he’s grasped every one of them. The most recent of those chances came on Thursday when the 20-year-old wing played 30 minutes of competitive basketball against an injury decimated Washington Wizards team.
It wasn’t a flashy performance, but the signs of Langford potentially developing into one of the rosters most complete players were evident.
Langford provided four assists from the wing position. Those passes came in a plethora of ways. Notably, there was one dime where Langford was the ball handler in the pick-and-roll, which is an aspect of his game we’ve not seen throughout this season.
Langford comes off the screen and immediately pushes towards the nail. Moritz Wagner covers Langford in the drop. The 6’6’ wing reads the defense and chooses to move the ball, hitting the popping Grant Williams who nails the three.
As Langford evolves and becomes more adjusted to scoring against NBA level defenses, you can expect him to run more pick-and-roll - similar to how Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown have this year. Encouragingly, Langford already looks to be a better passer than either of his counterparts were during their rookie years.
Against the Wizards, Langford was active in looking to score. He just couldn’t get the ball to drop, going 3-of-9 from the field.
Unfortunately, the only success the young rookie found was when he got opportunities to finish around the rim, going 3-for-5 up close. One of those close-range finishes was this layup in traffic.
Wanamaker creates an open space on the weak side shoulder, coming off a Vincent Poirier screen and curling to the strong side corner. Langford reacts to this space by feeding Poirier the rock and re-collecting the ball on a dribble hand off. Once Romeo comes off the Poirier screen, he changes his pace and gets downhill to finish in traffic, beating three Wizards defenders in the process. Very encouraging.
At 6’6 and still growing into his physical frame, Langford can become a fearsome finisher when driving to the hoop. Uncertainty clouds Langford’s jumper though, with the Indiana native failing to find any consistency from further than four feet.
Here, Langford gets open on the corner during a fast break, Javonte Green finds him after causing the defense to collapse. There’s nothing but time to get this shot off. A slow mechanic, and an unfriendly bounce cause Langford to miss the open attempt. The biggest issue here is the length of time it took the 216-pound wing to go through his shooting motion; it reeks of low confidence. A summer of drilling his shot should rectify this for him.
Scoring and assisting weren’t the only ways Langford affected the Wizards game. He played his usual solid defense and even got some work done on the glass, finishing the game with four defensive rebounds, displaying intelligent positioning, and a willingness to box out his opposing man.
Interestingly, Langford isn’t the only Indiana native on the Celtics roster. Joined by Gordon Hayward, Langford has found a mentor and sounding board, as Hayward informed CelticsBlog recently.
“I don’t know if he would say taken under my wing but certainly tried to teach him a couple of things and help him out. Somebody that I think is really talented and can have a long time in the NBA if he continues to work and continues to get better as a player.”
After Langford’s showing against Washington on Thursday, you can notice certain resemblances between both Hayward and the young rookie. Both players are always looking to make the right pass and pick their scoring opportunities to be within the flow of the offensive scheme.
Outside of their on-court similarities, another resemblance comes to mind: both Hayward and Langford have had their Celtics careers thus far hampered by injuries of varying degrees. Unfortunately, in the latter stages of the Wizards game, Langford was struck by another, this time spraining his wrist. Thankfully, the injury appears only to be a minor one, yet, it still forced Langford off the court, reducing the impact he could make as the game entered crunch time.
While the wrist injury may be short-lived, Langford has shown his game is only scratching the surface of his potential ceiling. With mentors such as Hayward and Kemba Walker and a coach who has continued to improve his players every year, Langford’s versatility will soon be considered an enormous positive for this Celtics team.