The Boston Celtics are about as front-loaded as any team. Regardless of the talent at the top, the key to improving their squad may lay with their youngest member, Romeo Langford.
The Boston Celtics are a wildly talented young team with one hurdle they just can’t seem to leap: the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the span of four seasons, three radically different Cs teams tried and failed to vault themselves from the Eastern Conference playoff bracket and to the NBA Finals. Granted, two times were at the hands of basketball Thanos himself, LeBron James, however 2020’s loss to the Miami Heat was a bitter reminder that they must improve if they hope to advance to the championship round.
While they have been undoubtedly good the past half-decade or so, Boston’s failure to reach the Finals is a red flag that’s growing an increasingly alarming shade of red with budding superstar Jayson Tatum’s impending free agency.
Point guard Kemba Walker’s nagging knee injury and wing Jaylen Brown’s offensive flaws have the workload growing increasingly for Tatum, so the team’s goal should be to surround him with fantastic complementary players.
Enter Romeo Langford.
ESPN’s fifth-ranked prospect in 2018, Langford’s collegiate and professional career has prove to be reletively underwhelming. Once an exciting prospect dominating his peers, Langford has fallen to a premature label of “bust”, which tends to follow around lottery picks who fail to establish themselves as rotation pieces.
As with everything and everyone dismissed in a fashion like this, it’s all about context with Langford.
A hand injury derailed his career at Indiana University, and a bum wrist, adductor, and ankle all respectively set him back during his rookie year with the Boston Celtics. All this, on top of playing for a contending team with a coach notorious for not playing rookies.
It’s not hard to see how the young wing had a hard time carving out anything meaningful his first season.
However, as expected with someone not long ago considered a blue-chip prospect, there were flashes of potential with Langford.
His calling card coming into the league was his offensive smoothness, an ability to get to the rim and finish with ease even against some of the best defenders.
While his opportunities on offense were scarce, Langford began to cut his teeth on defense and eventually became a high-quality sub for Brad Stevens to call on to check an opposing perimeter player.
With a sturdy 6-4 frame and 6-10 wingspan, Romeo is an ideal modern wing.
Defensively fluid, he can guard opposing wings and guards with an impressive blend of speed, strength, and lateral quickness. With a smooth handle and impressive touch inside, Langford projects to at least fit in well with the array of perimeter players the Boston Celtics possess, who could thrive off the lanes Langford creates for himself.
His offensive skill set should go well with the team’s newest member of the “chosen 14th in the draft” club, Aaron Nesmith, and his flamethrower jumper.
The fears with Langford are almost solely with his outside shot and his durability.
On the front of durability, it certainly has not been a promising start to his career. However, given proper time to heal from his ailments, Langford does have an opportunity to embark on a long and fruitful NBA career, not unlike the multitude of players in league history to overcome starting their career on the injury report (Stephen Curry, anyone?).
It’s obviously no guarantee, but it’s not without precedent that this is nothing more than a chapter in his career, not the theme.
On the issue of his jumper, that is a slightly more nuanced conversation.
The Boston Celtics rookie has never been known as a sniper, and probably never will be. However, the eye test indicates he has solid form and good mechanics.
His putrid college and rookie year percentage of 27.2 and 18.5 from deep, respectively, is alarming.
However, a torn ligament in his shooting hand in college and inconsistent, sporadic playtime for Langford in the pros are legitimate excuses for failing to cobble up any consistency from beyond the arc.
For a meaningful look at Langford’s shooting ability, look at his free throw percentage. He cashed in 80 percent of his looks at the charity stripe during his time with G-Leauge affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, and 72 percent in the NBA.
With his ability to sink his free throws, Langford has displayed that he is capable of having a soft touch outside of the paint. That, coupled with his solid form and mechanics, there is simply no reason to not expect sharp improvement from the outside, to rise to the level of a respectable shooter.
While the Boston Celtics are certainly a perimeter-oriented team, everyone has a use for a player with Langfords skill set.
Able to put the ball on the floor and attack the rim, the 21-year-old’s finishing ability and passing skills make him an even more dangerous threat when paired with Boston’s elite grouping of wings and guards.
On the back unit, he would serve as a secondary ball-handler to Marcus Smart, allowing Smart to switch up time on and off the ball, allowing him to show off his newfound shooting stroke more and more often. He makes for an interesting pick and roll partner with Robert Williams, and pairs well defensively with the switchy Grant Williams between wings and forwards.
What the Celtics need is a versatile, switch defender with offensive upside to come off the bench and give them some sort of scoring punch while their top tier players take a breather.
Luckily for them, he could already be under contract.
For Boston to make any meaningful improvements, they must get a dramatic leveling up from Romeo Langford.
If he can capitulate himself from lost in the rotation to the team’s seventh or eighth man off the bench, they may be able to break through that ceiling.
With his talent and potential, they should demand it.