Although the writers at Red’s Army do not, many take basketball lightly. It is a source of athletic entertainment that sends children to the blacktop and leaves many with a stiff neck due to the way a barstool and television never quite lined up.
Coronavirus is not to be taken lightly, however. It is easy to feel panicked amidst the shut-downs and increasingly disconcerting news coverage. So, why not bring some hoops into your life? What better way to start than providing a film analysis of the Boston Celtics’ top draft selection from last summer.
Taken with the last pick in the lottery, the selection of Romeo Langford initially puzzled both fans and draft experts alike. Although bigger names like Sekou Doumbouya and Brandon Clarke were still on the board, many grew to trust that Danny Ainge saw something in Langford. After all, he finished as the fourth leading scorer in Indiana high school basketball history and played his freshman year with a limiting hand injury.
Scouting breakdowns of Langford are abundant, so let’s dive right into this review. To follow is an analysis of his most encouraging signs of development as well as some critical areas of improvement.
Sure, leading off a breakdown with defensive highlights is not the sexiest approach. It is a great place to start, however, because defense is traditionally one of the hardest areas of the game for rookies to catch up to in the NBA.
Despite playing only 27 games this season for the Celtics, Langford has drawn five offensive fouls while playing just 11 minutes per game. A review of the film will also show that he should have more and may be suffering from a whistle more generous to veterans than rookies.
Compare that number to Jayson Tatum’s first season. The possible All-Defensive team candidate drew only five offensive fouls the entire year. Impressively, Langford demonstrates a both a court and body positioning awareness that is more aligned with players who have spent several years in the league.
Surprisingly, three of the charges he has drawn this year have come against players much larger than him (John Collins, Aaron Gordon, Andre Drummond.) Langford does not shy away from contact and has no qualms about potentially ending up on a poster.
The fearlessness needed to take these hits suggests he is willing to do anything to help the team. Celtics fans should be nothing but excited about this mentality. Romeo could very quickly become a fan favorite in Boston.
What’s more, notice how quickly Langford gets in position to take these charges. He seems to be merely waiting for the player to run into him, suggesting his hoops IQ could be higher than what we first thought. Adapting to the mental aspect of the game is no easy feat, and Romeo could be a step ahead of the curve.
Fret not, there are more defensive highlights to come. But I’ll mix in a bit of offense now. Specifically, Langford has displayed an affinity for darting to the bucket when open lanes appear.
Unfortunately, many his Celtic teammates simply miss him during these slashes. With underrated hops to go along with a 6-foot-6 frame and near 7-foot wingspan, Langford wants to help his team by taking advantage of his natural gifts.
With the way Tatum is playing right now, rookies have a better chance of getting into Hogwarts than receiving a pass during an off-ball cut, and understandably so. Plus, Enes Kanter isn’t exactly known for dishing out of the post like Nikola Jokic. (In fact, Kanter has so much tunnel vision that I mistakenly put the same clip of him twice in that video.)
Interestingly, Langford is oddly reminiscent of Avery Bradley in this department. Rewatch the pass he received from Tremont Waters and tell me that does not remind you of a young AB.
With a glut of wings on the roster, Langford will likely have to find ways to contribute other than corner spacing. Being active away from the ball is one thing he can both control and master. As teammates expand their trust in him, expect more of these connections to be made.
Pick and Roll Defense Potential
Once more, Langford’s body positioning shines brightest. While he certainly has blown some coverages during pick and rolls, the rookie has also shown some special potential here.
This coverage and block on De’Andre Hunter can be watched over and over again. He mitigates the screen like a veteran before adjusting his hips and sticking with Hunter all the way to the rim. With a hand held high the entire time, this swat was inevitable.
The play against Evan Fournier is somewhat identical. Langford approachs the screen with agile feet and combines that with his textbook hand placement. A couple years down the road the Celtics could let loose and lineup of Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Tatum, Langford and Timelord that would wreak havoc.
Jumping Passing Lanes
Sometimes I watch Celtics not named Tatum and wonder if skill development through osmosis is a theory with some legs to it.
Much has been written about the way Boston’s superstar reads passing lanes. Yet, Langford has shown a knack for doing so as well. This only augments my argument that his basketball intellect is higher than the usual rookie’s.
Their approach to stealing passes differs, however. While Tatum gambles by often ditching his assignment in a calculated risk, Langford tends to stay home on his man.
He predicts that the passer will have no choice but to kick out to a teammate. When he does, Langford is waiting for the steal. This technique is built upon trust in both yourself and your teammates to close down shot attempts and force a pass.
Romeo deploys that 6-foot-11 wingspan to get dirty and make life difficult on ballhandlers. He strategically waits for moments to get into the mix and poke the ball loose.
Keep a close eye on his positioning during his steals against the Raptors and Detroit. He looks as though someone locked him in a gym and drilled him repeatedly on staying on the balls of your feet and extending your arms.
The frustration of Kyle Lowry is particularly pleasing. Langford did nothing but jump into his dribbling space and stick his hands down low. Additionally, his active hands after getting stuffed by Nerlens Noel is notable, too. Many players would have just jogged back on defense. Langford instinctually gets those hands high and comes away with both a steal and bucket.
But of course, like any rookie, Langford has some areas of improvement. Perplexingly, he looks uncomfortable with NBA length and speed on the offensive end. Let’s explore further.
Struggling Against NBA Length & Lack of Finishing Creativity
Admittedly, I did not see this coming for Langford. With those aforementioned measurables and springy youth on his side, I envisioned Romeo adjusting well to the length of his new peers.
Yet, he has been rejected a noticeable amount of times during his first year as a professional. You already saw Noel block him after attacking a closeout. Struggling against 7-footers is understandable, however.
Struggling against people with a similar height to him is odd, though. Getting rejected by Kevin Huerter during a fadeaway is not a good sign. Same goes for Treveon Graham, who stands an inch shorter than Langford.
When watching these drives or cuts to the rim it becomes apparent that he does not have too much finishing creativity.
Romeo is adept as getting defenders on his hip. For some defenders, this is not a disadvantage. We already saw what Langford did to both Hunter and Fournier when he was on their respective hip. Others, however, cannot recover when in this position.
Langford does them a favor when he continues his path without any deceleration or changes. Mixing in a Eurostep would help. Learning to explode into the chest of trailing defenders or incoming rim protectors is another next step to tackle.
Adjusting to NBA Pace
Not known for being a speedster or facilitator, this might have been a little more predictable. Again, Romeo draws a comparison to a younger Jaylen Brown. Just like his teammate, Langford is finding the transition to the faster pace to be difficult.
This reveals itself in both his handle and tendency to telegraph passes. Mario Hezonja is able to knock the ball away from Langford because Romeo simply fails to extend it far enough away from Hezonja. Plus, he fails to cross over in time to protect it with his body.
Sure, his steal on Doumbouya was encouraging but, Langford actually dribbles the ball into the hands of the defender, who is literally running away from him. This suggests that Langford could not make a decision on the fast break and the offensive end of the game could be too rushed for him still.
The film also shows a bevy of telegraphed passes. The biggest sin is throwing one away under your own hoop. There are more, unfortunately. After snaking his way past a screen, Langford does not know what to do when his roll man is too tightly covered to receive a pass.
So, he picks up his dribble; sin number two. After doing this he stares down Carsen Edwards on the opposite wing, letting every defender know where the crosscourt pass is headed.
Facing trouble once more against the Magic (and incredible defender Jonathan Isaac) he goes to pick up his dribble. The crazy length of Isaac rips the ball away. Langford stops dribbling when the game speeds up out of his comfort zone. This habit will be broken in time but, it will take just that, time.
Coming into the season, everyone knew that Langford would need to put in some major work on that perimeter shooting form. Luckily for us, Boston has an excellent track record of turning players into solid 3-point shooters. It comes as no shock to see Romeo putting in the time to revamp that stroke.
Have his upper body mechanics tightened up? You bet. But, rewatching his 3-point attempts uncover a pattern. Romeo has some left/right misses but more pressing of a concern are his short misses, of which he has plenty.
Langford could use more arc on his jumper. Whenever he shoots from the corner he is liable to hit the front rim. That trend becomes evident right away.
Perhaps Langford is simply adjusting to the further distance of NBA triples. Perhaps next year he finds himself a little stronger and more used to that distance. Or, perhaps he needs to get more air under the ball. Regardless, the shot just is not hitting as of now and it reflects in his 5-23 performance from deep this year.
To wrap this up, I reached out to a couple of other Celtics writers and asked for their opinion on the young wing. Cameron Tabatabaie of Celticshub said,
“I think he’s still too raw to be a reliable piece in the postseason. Down the stretch (pre suspended season) – especially if the Cs get locked into the three seed – Stevens could explore giving him more minutes.”
Tabatabaie went on to add,
“His stints with the Red Claws are intriguing; perhaps with a little more playing time he could find some consistency at the pro level,”
Another friend and writer for The Celtics Wire (USA Today) opined that Langford could be a,
“Solid deep rotation player this season, might be able to high double digits minutes by season’s end. Hard to predict his ceiling going forward, but looks at worst as a solid starter in 2-3 seasons if his growth holds up.”
What does the future hold for Langford? Your guess is as good as mine. Let’s check back on him next season and see if he curtails the bad habits and amplifies the good ones.