Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This breakdown focuses on Indiana wing Romeo Langford.
Prior to the 2018-19 college basketball season, Romeo Langford appeared to be a sure-fire lottery pick in the 2019 NBA Draft. His recruiting played out for all to see, culminating in a high-profile commitment to a home-state program in Indiana, and the general consensus was that Langford was a top-10 prospect in his high school class.
Upon arrival at Indiana, the talented wing was productive — averaging 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game — and, as such, a passing glance may indicate that Langford’s stock should go unchanged. However, it was a topsy-turvy stint in Bloomington and the end result is a prevailing notion that Langford may not be bound for the lottery after all.
At 6’6 with a 6’11 wingspan, Langford brings a strong athletic profile to the table as a modern NBA wing. He did not participate in athletic testing at the NBA Draft combine but, on tape, Langford’s physical, stout frame is easy to observe. He is not a terribly explosive player when compared to NBA-caliber athletes, but Langford does bring fluidity to the table and, in general, athleticism isn’t a weakness, nor is it an overwhelming strength.
Offensively, Langford was the linchpin for Indiana and there is plenty to like about his profile. He clearly knows how to move on the floor, displaying quality footwork in varying situations and an intriguing basketball IQ. In addition, Langford flashed strong passing instincts and it is clear that he sees the game at a high level.
In contrast, however, Langford’s biggest question mark also arrives on the offensive end in the form of his perimeter shooting. Though it has to be noted that Langford was reportedly dealing with a hand/thumb injury during his college tenure, the results were not encouraging. He converted only 27.2 percent of his three-point attempts (3.9 per game) and, even with an uptick to 35 percent over his final 12 games, Langford didn’t inspire confidence in his ability to stretch the floor as a shooter.
Even with the injury caveat, Langford was well-known as a shaky shooter during his admittedly impressive high school career and, beyond the results, there are tangible concerns with his mechanics. It isn’t the best shooting motion and/or shot release and, in short, Langford is going to need his jump shot to come around in order to fulfill anything approaching his professional ceiling.
On the plus side, Langford did finish well near the rim in college and there is a certain creativity and touch to his game. Some have argued that Langford could be an elite finisher and, while that is perhaps too strong, it is a clear strength that could help to overcome his lack of appeal as a floor spacer. Even without the three-point shooting, Langford is a proven multi-tiered scorer, which would be a handy trait to deploy, particularly on teams that need that kind of punch on the wing.
Defensively, Langford is a mixed bag at this stage. He does have the physical tools — including strength, length and reasonable athleticism — but Langford’s awareness wasn’t always impressive at Indiana. That could be a product of his large offensive role, at least to some degree, but he didn’t play very hard on a play-by-play basis and, in the NBA, that won’t be able to continue.
At best, Langford could absolutely arrive as a plus defender in the relatively near future, pairing his physical gifts with increased awareness and the translation of his basketball IQ to that end of the floor. At worst, his inattentiveness could be a problem but Langford should have a reasonably high floor with the way he can function athletically.
All told, there are arguments in favor and against Langford as a lottery-caliber prospect. The positional value placed on wings in the modern game is real and the potential of two-way impact should help Langford to sell himself to NBA teams. Add in the fact that, in a rosy evaluation, he could be a primary offensive operator with the ball in his hands, and there is an appetizing package of traits.
If things go wrong, however, Langford could be an offensive player that is easy to defend at the NBA level in that his jump shot could be ignored by opposing defenses. If that happens, Langford could be a functional NBA player in the way he can create for himself and others, but the high-end outcomes evaporate and, when combined with his lack of elite defense, the overall evaluation suffers.
Through the lens of the Atlanta Hawks, Langford would probably constitute a reach with the No. 10 pick. His shooting wouldn’t be as glaring of an issue when deployed next to the likes of Kevin Huerter and Trae Young but, in contrast, Langford’s on-ball characteristics would be muted on a team with a primary initiator at the point guard spot.
In conclusion, Romeo Langford is almost certainly a top-20 pick in this draft and an optimistic evaluation could place him comfortably in the lottery. In similar fashion to many players, however, perimeter shooting will dictate much of his future and the final verdict on his prospect status stems from one’s belief in his jumper.