The Boston Celtics had several first round draft picks last year, but did their top pick turn out to become a valued asset?
Throughout the years, Danny Ainge has put himself in position to build full draft classes from the bevy of picks he acquired from notable deals with the Brooklyn Nets and later the Philadelphia 76ers. While he has put the Boston Celtics in a position to land cheap, cornerstone talent via the draft, it hasn’t always worked out perfectly.
Now, don’t get us wrong, he nailed the two most important picks of his tenure in selecting Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum with the #3 pick in consecutive years (via the Nets). It’s just that other than those two, Terry Rozier and Marcus Smart, his draft record has been admittedly spotty.
Names like Guerschon Yabusele and Ante Zizic come to mind from the 2016 draft, while guys not exactly associated with the term “household” like R.J. Hunter and James Young were picked in prior seasons.
In spite of that, the C’s haven’t missed the playoffs since 2015 and have missed the postseason exactly one time since 2007. Through the trade market and free agency, Ainge has always been able to field a competitive team on the hardwood.
With the roster currently locked in with the max-contracts of Kemba Walker and Gordon Hayward, the looming extension of Jaylen Brown next season along with the future extension that Jayson Tatum is going to be earning, Ainge needed/needs to hit on the abundance of draft choices he had/has.
Before we get into any future selection, though, we need to look back. In 2019, Ainge converted on two first round draft picks. Grant Williams, the 22nd overall selection, has played admirably on a team that suffered injuries in 2019-20. That said, his on-court value is probably more to the C’s than any other franchise. Williams, to his credit, has gelled with teammates on and off the floor and has done the dirty work for a team lacking physicality on the interior.
The other first round pick, Romeo Langford–a lottery pick nonetheless–has a far less defined role on the Boston Celtics. As my coeditor Mark Nilon said last month, his first year in the league has been a roller-coaster:
"Though his rookie year may have proven to be a little underwhelming — averaged 1.6 points and 1.2 rebounds per game — the wings did manage to show flashes of what could be from time to time, especially against the Atlanta Hawks on February 7th where he dropped 16 points and nabbed five boards and three blocks on 45 percent shooting from the field and 40 percent shooting from deep."
Truthfully, Langford has underwhelmed and has given potential trade partners pause on acquiring him in a deal. He hasn’t lived up to his draft slot, and worse yet, he has proven that the injury-prone label that has plagued his career is not unjustified.
Bleacher Report recently floated Langford’s name in a trade piece, and his name was mentioned for a swap with the Memphis Grizzlies for Brandon Clarke…on the condition that the C’s add a first round pick.
That Langford has been eclipsed by Clarke so quickly to the point where a swap wouldn’t be perceived as even unless a pick was involved shows the disappointment many view his initial campaign with.
Back in December, BR even said that Ainge may already regret selecting Langford over Clarke:
"Averaging 11.8 points, Clarke has shot 10-of-22 from deep while frequently scoring with touch on his one-handers off drives and push shots around the key.Clarke is equally appealing long term compared to Langford, yet he would have been more useful to Boston throughout his rookie contract."
That thinking may be premature, but what isn’t is this: Langford has already dropped in value from where he was selected just a year ago. Only time will tell if his value will improve.