Romeo Langford: Role
Very good finisher around the rim
Solid on-ball defender
Strong frame & good body control
Poor jump shooting limits off-ball impact
Ball-handling and passing just okay, limiting on-ball potential
Weak defender away from the ball
Basketball intelligence needs improvement, especially on defense
Offensive role at Indiana
Langford is a secondary ball-handler at Indiana, with much of their offense running through his pick and rolls. While an excellent scorer in the pick and roll, his ability to create for others from this action has proven limited. When operating off-ball he typically is spotting up. He is one of the least proficient catch-and-shoot shooters on the team, but has mitigated this weakness by attacking closeouts aggressively. He’s also a threat cutting to the rim or crashing the offensive glass. Using his size and strength, he can build up a head of steam and finish at a high level on the interior, causing trouble for opposing defenses.
Offensive role projection -
Langford’s lack of a reliable shot off the catch will become a larger issue at the next level. NBA defenders will have the luxury of playing a few feet further off of him, as they will be able to beat him to spots if he tries to attack closeouts. One major concern is that his off-ball utility outside of cutting is negligible, an area that is tough to leverage on a consistent basis. He isn't a threatening shooter and while his finishing around the rim is strong, his efficiency there will likely decrease somewhat against bigger, faster, stronger NBA defenses. As a result he needs to either improve as an off-ball threat or become more potent as a dribble drive or pull-up threat. He has miles to go to be a starting-level creator at an NBA level, which will force him to either play off-ball or off the bench. Improving his three point shot should be his primary goal moving forward, as that is his avenue to a starting role, but for now he projects as a scoring spark off the bench.
Defensive role at Indiana
Langford is usually tasked with guarding a strong wing scorer or chasing around a team’s sharpshooter. He usually excels in this role, and this has been a reason for his strong defensive reputation thus far. He provides Indiana with a matchup advantage against teams that rely heavily on wings for creation because of his ability to pester these players. He rarely matches up onto lead guards, which raises concerns about whether he can actually defend them. He is not an elite lateral athlete and his defensive anticipation is lacking at times. He rarely makes out-of-area plays away from the ball.
Defensive role projection -
Since Langford will likely struggle to defend quicker guards at the next level, his value as an on-ball defender will be muted. College teams have a wider diversity of roster construction given the dearth of talent available compared to the NBA and so some will run the offense through a wing, others through a big. In the NBA most actions are run through a lead guard, or in some cases, a highly-skilled big man. Rarely is a wing tasked with a heavy creation role unless they are elite at it. He does not project to be a foil for these types—the Paul Georges and Kawhi Leonards of the league. While his defensive capabilities have been lauded, he doesn't have the out-of-the-box tools to be a lockdown defender. As a result, Langford’s on-ball skills against wings and off-guards will be less valuable in the NBA than in college, while his off-ball defense will be more important. While the ability to shadow shooters off-ball will surely be valuable, Langford lacks a complete repertoire as an off-ball defender. He does not make out-of-area plays and cannot be relied on to rotate as a help defender. He does make the occasional dig and has a knack for intercepting passes, but does not cause many events beyond that. His feel hasn’t improved much over the course of the season and his motor concerns seem to have some weight, but his physical prowess and on-ball competition at least give him a platform to succeed.
Why Langford will earn minutes as a rookie
While Langford is not outstanding in any one aspect of his game, he shows promise in many areas. Whether it’s his ability to navigate pick and rolls, be a pest on-ball, or make the occasional step back three, he has shown skills which NBA teams hold in high regard. He will need to play his way through mistakes and be able to acclimate himself to NBA speed. Teams with tighter rotations and limited minutes may not be able to find the time for Langford, because at this juncture, it's hard to say what he does overtly well. However, teams with an extra few minutes in their wing rotation may be able to develop a positive contributor over time. He will need to be given a wide berth and a patient hook in order to let him begin to understand what his role is.
Why Langford’s minutes may be limited as a rookie
If Langford falls out of the lottery, he could go to a team looking to win now, which does not bode well for his chances to play. He does not contribute to winning basketball in any way that is easy to project at the next level. He is not proficient enough on-ball to justify having the ball in his hands over more efficient shooting threats and his style of offense (having to force his way to the rim to get to the line) is exhausting over an 82-game schedule for a smaller player. He does not provide floor spacing off-ball. On defense, he is best at guarding wings who usually do not have the ball unless they are elite scorers, and because of his lack of explosive lateral quickness he will struggle to lock down quick NBA guards. As an off-ball defender he is extremely spacey and not ready to make an impact at the NBA level. Whichever team drafts him should be patient if they hope to extract anything out of him long term, but patience might not be an option for a team looking to win now. The teams who have needs to fill and minutes available might be able to fill their depth chart with a more consistent player in the lottery. Teams with multiple first rounders who are willing to gamble on upside seem like a likely landing spot.