After one tumultuous season at the University of Indiana, former top-five projected draft pick, Romeo Langford, will likely still be on the board when the Detroit Pistons are on the clock with the 15th pick in the NBA Draft on Thursday evening.
Rivals ranked Langford as the sixth-best prospect heading into the college season, but now most doubt he’ll be drafted within the lottery. He’s slidden further and further back in mock drafts with some having him drop all the way into the 20s. But the hype that once surrounded Langford was well received. He received the most votes since Eric Gordon in 2007 for Indiana’s Mr. Basketball award, which is given to the top senior in the state. He flashed a mixtape worthy handle, explosive scoring abilities, as well as the size and look of the next generation of basketball stars.
But now we’re here in June wondering what team should take the risk of calling Langford’s name to be their newest addition to the roster and hopeful big-time contributor. And the Pistons are one of those teams. The paths for Detroit in the draft vary. They could play it safe and select a player who can fill their need of size and shooting right away in North Carolina standout Cameron Johnson, prepare for a future without Reggie Jackson by taking the intriguing Nickeil Alexander-Walker, or going for a high-risk, high-reward type prospect in Kevin Porter Jr. or Langford.
Let’s explore the player Langford is and why Detroit could settle on him in Brooklyn tonight.
Langford can score the ball in bunches, a key reason he was as highly touted of a prospect as he was going into amateur play. But at the college level, he struggled to put the ball in the hoop at an efficient rate. He about 44.8% from the field, 27.2% from the 3-point line, and 72.2% from the charity stripe. The overall field goal percentage isn’t terrible, but the 3PT percentage and even his free throw percentage are worrisome. A reason Langford’s shooting may have struggled was due to an injury to his right thumb. Reportedly, he is recovering from surgery now and is expected to play in Summer League. How much of his shooting woes can be attested to his injury, I don’t know, but if you like Langford a lot as a player, you have to think it played a considerable role.
Take away his shooting though and you still see the promise in him. He was able to get to the rim at the collegiate level and has the athleticism to attack the basket and score. He’s quick and explosive, which makes him exciting to watch. He isn’t a lead guard by any means, but can be a secondary playmaker.
There are concerns about his motor, however, and his shooting mechanics suggest there are more to his shooting woes than just a thumb injury. With Indiana’s season on the line in the Big Ten Tournament, Langford seemingly disappeared. He scored nine points while shooting 4-12 from the field. In seven of his last 13 games, he shot 35% from the field or worse.
For Detroit, they also have to assess if he fits their need. They did just trade for Tony Snell, which does give them an option at small forward now, but they still don’t need another shooting guard, which Langford projects to be. He’s just 6’6” but does have a 6’11” wingspan, however, he is not strong enough to play at the small forward spot especially undersized strength-wise. It was easier for the Pistons to use Bruce Brown as a small forward last season because he came into the league with an NBA ready body. Langford, like most prospects, don’t have that same attribute. With Luke Kennard likely moving into the starting lineup and Ish Smith potentially leaving in free agency, the Pistons majority of scoring off the bench from last season could be gone. They’ll need to replace it, and Langford would help in that regard. But with Brown and Khyri Thomas, who was a capable scorer and shooter when he seldom got into the game for Detroit, the bench wing spots may already be taken.
If the Pistons were to take a chance on one of the risky freshmen in the class, such as Langford, Nassir Little, and Kevin Porter Jr., Langford would be the safest pick of the three. He has useful NBA skills offensively and will be a fine defender against other guards. He reads as a boom or bust kind of guy, but will a team convince themselves to spend a high pick on him? We’ll find out tonight.