A top-five recruit, Romeo Langford had a solid season for Indiana, but didn’t quite live up to expectations. He was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, averaging 16.5 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 1.6 steals and blocks combined per game, with shooting splits of .448/.272/.722. His lackluster season led to him slowly slipping on most draft boards, and at this point in time, it appears possible that he could fall out of the lottery, something that was inconceivable early in the season.
A critical fact that most didn’t know until April was that Langford played most of the season with an injury that would eventually require surgery. He played 26 games, starting with the November 27 contest at Duke, with a torn ligament in his right thumb (his shooting hand). It’s difficult to say how much the injury impacted his game, but there is little doubt that it was a detriment. In the first six games before the injury, he scored 20 or more points three times (50 percent), including 22 against both Marquette and Arkansas, and in the remaining 26 games, he scored 20 or more just eight times (31 percent). Of course, the schedule was tougher for those final 26 games, including multiple matchups with Michigan and Michigan State.
When reviewing Langford’s statistics from this season, his most glaring weakness would appear to be his 3-point shooting, and it could be argued that the injury didn’t play a huge role in him making only 27 percent from deep. In the six games before the injury, he made roughly the same percentage (6 of 23, 26 percent). Even before coming to Indiana, the freshman was not known as a knockdown shooter; for example, he made 33 percent of his 3-pointers (and 76 percent from the free-throw line) at the 2017 U19 World Cup, the 2017 adidas Nations, and the 2017 adidas EuroCamp combined.
Langford is a far more of a driver and a shot creator than a shooter. He gets into the lane often, has surprising strength, absorbs contact extremely well, and has an uncanny ability to make off-balance shots while hanging in the air. His ability to make shots through contact cannot be overstated – he takes a lot of punishment on these plays, and also draws a high number of fouls. The youngster is also adept at driving, coming to a hard stop, and either going up and under, spinning and fading away, or stepping back and shooting. At other times, he will use a hesitation instead of stopping, and accelerate to the rim for a finish. His main fault is that he’s far more effective driving to the right, which is partially due to him rarely using his left hand to finish.
As the Big Ten season progressed, opponents learned Langford’s tendencies and also knew that he was struggling from deep. As a result, the freshman faced defenses that clogged the lanes and dared him to shoot. On the pick and roll, defenses often brought hard double teams, preferring to take their chances with Indiana’s slow-moving big men. At the same time, Langford spent far too much time as a spot-up player in my opinion, leaving him on an island without the threat of a deep shot. He also took a beating during the physical conference play, and by the time the Big Ten Tournament rolled around, he looked physically and mentally drained.
Langford’s frustrating season may ultimately be an NBA team’s gain. There has to be at least a couple of clubs that are drafting in the 15-20 range of the first round who are hoping that he falls to them. And if he falls that far, I believe that he will be a steal. Given his injuries and his young age, I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I do not see his shot as being broken, and I do see loads of potential. With improvement from deep, along with playing in a system that provides better spacing and allows him to play more on the ball, I would expect him to flourish.
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- Great size and length for a wing, with a solid frame that has room for more muscle
- Not exceptionally explosive, but a very skilled and fluid athlete with the ball in his hands
- Excels at scoring around the basket in the half court on non-post-up plays (drives, cuts to the basket, and put-backs), averaging 1.36 points per possession (PPP), which ranked at the 87th percentile
- Has a smooth jump shoot and is very reliable from midrange; shooting between 17 feet and the 3-point line, ranked at the 91st percentile for PPP
- Excellent pick-and-roll handler, showing good vision as a passer and plenty of punch as a scorer, ranking at the 90th percentile for PPP
- Coming off screens, rises quickly for jumpers; ranked at 75th percentile for PPP when shooting off screens
- Very effective shooting off the bounce and scoring in isolation; ranked at the 76th percentile for PPP in ISO
- Draws a ton of fouls; fouled on 20.4 percent of his possessions and averaged 6.1 free-throws per game
- A good on-ball defender – stays in front of his man, and has the length to challenge shots; ranked at the 93rd percentile for PPP allowed in isolation
- Played with an injury this season with little to gain personally
- Struggled from deep this season, making just 27.2 percent of his 3-point shots
- Far less effective driving left (.95 PPP) than right (1.58 PPP)
- Lacking great explosiveness off the floor, a reliable floater game, and a dependable left hand limits his effectiveness at the rim; within eight feet this season, made a modest 50 percent of his shots off drives
- Not turnover prone in general, but struggled when handling in transition this season, turning the ball over 31 percent of the time
- Doesn’t always play with great intensity or emotion
- Can be too passive on the offensive end, not demanding the ball and not working off the ball to get open
- Prone to mental lapses off the ball on the defensive end, not staying aware of both man and ball, and not always helping and rotating
- Suffered multiple injuries this season, and appeared to wear down at the end
Sources, Credits, and Acknowledgements: Stats used in our scouting reports mainly come from Synergy Sports Technology and RealGM.com, and occasionally from Hoop-Math.com and Sports-Reference.com. The photo was courtesy of Indiana Athletics. Other outside sources are noted with links to the source.