Can the Celtics’ forgotten lottery pick play a role this season?

Photo of Romeo Langford courtesy of 2019 Getty Images/Elsa

When the Sacramento Kings 2019 lottery pick conveyed, the Boston Celtics were left with the worst possible outcome. The ping pong balls were not lucky and the Celtics received the last pick in the lottery. It wasn’t that big of a deal considering the young talent surrounding the organization already and the volume of picks in the draft. And quite frankly, picking 14th out of a 60-player draft gives you better chances than most to land an impact player.

That said, when the Celtics plucked Romeo Langford of Indiana University there was some surprise. I had other players on the board at that point that I liked, but I’ll trust Danny Ainge’s team on this one.

Langford taking it to the hoop | Michael Hickey/Getty
After the pick, we started to learn more about the player and there are some things to like. Langford was the fifth-rated player in his high school class. One year can change a lot, but there is certainly some high-end talent in that 6’6” frame. I like the risk vs. reward play in the middle of the first round.

Langford’s draft stock slipped because his production didn’t meet expectations. He injured his thumb early in his freshman campaign and didn’t shoot the ball as some hoped. Langford had the option for surgery and to shut it down, but he committed to playing through the hurting thumb. He didn’t make excuses for the injury that could’ve determined his future, so he gets a good mark from me. I like his toughness already.

He had the thumb surgery after his collegiate season and was rehabbing for most of the summer. Brad Stevens recently said that Langford has been cleared for basketball activities for about a month, but he did miss game action for the Las Vegas Summer League Celtics. This is why people have forgotten about him. We haven’t seen much of him in Celtics gear yet.

Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe did get some video of Langford’s shot looking pretty smooth, which automatically starts my optimism. His shot is a bit of a question mark because of his thumb, and if he can turn into a good NBA shooter, then he’ll have a role in this league for many years.

For a team with impact veterans on the team, will Langford carve out a role this season? As A. Sherrod Blakely included in a piece on Langford for NBCSports Boston, Langford is not going to fail for a lack of hard work.

“I put extra work in every single time, after practice,” Langford told NBC Sports Boston. “Today I needed a little bit more time to get my shots up.”

We’ll see him on the court at some point, but he has a lot of bodies to jump before he gets significant minutes.

Langford may have point guard skills, but as a young player he may not be ready to play NBA point. He wouldn’t take any of Kemba Walker’s 32+ minutes anyway. Marcus Smart should be expecting to get around 30 minutes of on-ball and off-ball guard duties. Lower on the point guard depth chart, but likely still ahead of Langford for trust reasons alone, is Brad Wanamaker.

Carsen Edwards is more of an undersized shooting guard, which is Langford’s primary position. If draft position tells us anything then Langford would get the nod over Edwards. That’s not how it works, though. Edwards looks like he has a more NBA ready skill at this time with his unconscious scoring ability.

Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Gordon Hayward are not giving any minutes away to Langford either. These three have All-Star aspirations to different degrees. For the Celtics to be good, these three need to be good. If Langford takes any minutes from these guys, then it’s time for trouble.

What is somewhat underrated in terms of Langford’s minutes is how the big men play. If the Celtics opt to go small more often than not, then they may opt to use more wings like Langford. If the big men step up or Brad decides to play with two bigger players on the court, then Landford’s minutes could be threatened by the likes of Grant Williams, Semi Ojeleye and Daniele Theis.

Being buried on the depth chart is not a terrible spot to be for the 19-year old who will turn 20 later this month. There is a lot to learn in the NBA. He’ll have the ability to sit and watch legitimate NBA starters operate for 48 minutes per night. The Celtics have the luxury to bring along a player like Langford slowly which may be best for his progression.

Being a young rookie that doesn’t play much can still have an important role. It gives the veterans something to pick on. Check out some light fun and camaraderie between Langford and Smart on media day.