By Ryan Mahanna
Special to BostonSportsJournal.com
Mahanna has been an assistant women's basketball coach at Morrisville State since the 2015-16 season. Previously he was at St. John Fisher, where he spent three seasons (2008-2011) as the full-time assistant in the men’s basketball program.
One year ago, Romeo Langford was the No. 1 ranked shooting guard (RSCI #6 overall prospect) in a star-studded 2018 recruiting class and now he’s a Boston Celtic. As Celtics fans have learned in the past few weeks, life comes at you fast. After an uneven freshman year at Indiana, Langford, is joining a roster that is far from settled. It’s hard to say at this point how he will fit in with the current mix of talent (and how much that may change in the coming weeks) but betting on pedigree in the late lottery is worth it regardless.
At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds with a near 7-foot wingspan, Langford does one thing the Celtics have sorely need; he gets to the line. It’s rare for someone his age to be so comfortable playing downhill and attacking defenders under control. Basketball in the Big Ten is a slog and despite playing with only one working thumb, he had a positive assist/turnover ratio (with a heavy usage rate) and got to the free throw line at a rate that would have been the best on the Celtics last year (per 100 possessions). He’s an advanced pick-and-roll ball-handler for a 19-year-old, pushes the ball in transition and rebounds well for his position. I can see him being let loose in a second unit role in a way that Boston tried to do with Terry Rozier, except he’d be potentially better equipped for it. The shooting doesn’t worry me, the feel for shot making is there and the mechanics aren’t broken. He loads his jumper by almost rolling the ball off his forehead. I’m not a shot doctor, I only play one on the internet, but I’m guessing they will get to work on that right away. Like Avery Bradley in 2010, Danny is willing to bet on the pedigree of a one-and-done guard who didn’t have a lights-out freshman year. It worked out for the Celtics then, we’ll see which direction this one swings.
(Note: Some have noted Romeo didn’t seem thrilled to be picked by Boston. I wouldn’t read too much into that, he’s not that type of rah-rah guy that had been interviewed throughout the night. His intensity can come and go on the court too, so be warned.)
When picking the 20s and into the 2nd round, I believe you should value three things 1) High-Major Experience 2) Production and 3) Skill. Players selected in this range are often looking at lives as NBA bench players (or worse) and you need a guy who is mature, works hard and has the confidence to produce in small windows. It’s the formula that pushed Semi Ojeyele into my arms two years ago and it’s the same narrative Williams will need to follow if he wants to find a spot in the Celtics crowded wing rotation.
At 6-foot-7, 240 pounds with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Williams is the two-time SEC player of the year (which is outrageous when you think about the talent in the SEC) and a proven winner. A generation ago he would have been an undersized power-forward and a tweener, which is the worst thing you could be then. Now in 2019, he’s pro-typical small-ball four who is stout enough to rebound and defend in the paint and has a budding perimeter game. Right now he’s most comfortable working out of the mid-post, which Brad Stevens has shown he values as a playmaking space, but it’s hard to see him getting featured reps there in the NBA. Williams is a high-IQ, coaches dream-type, but defending dynamic perimeter players without fouling or getting separation off the dribble against NBA athletes will be a work-in-progress. He’ll need to make open 3s, finish straight line drives and prove that he will be able to defend smaller players in space. Essentially, he will need to be better than Semi Ojeyele if he wants to crack the rotation I can’t see them sharing the court at the same time. This is of course if Semi is still around come next September. If not, Grant Williams will be happy to fill his spot on the (weight room) bench.
33rd pick (via Sixers)
Carsen Edwards in the perfect player for my late-pick formula. He’s a highly decorated veteran of a high-major college basketball program who improved every year and is very good at something, and that something is getting buckets. Stevens loves to give his lead ball handlers the greenest of lights when it comes to attacking in ball-screen and dribble hand-off actions and Edwards will be full throttle from the first tip in Las Vegas. He broke all sorts of three-point shooting records this past season, making almost four per game, all heavily guarded. He’s essentially a 6-foot (wink wink) shooting guard, but the Celtics have had success with this type of player under Stevens and I wouldn’t be surprised if Edwards was playing more than Romeo Langford and Grant Williams early in the season. The Celtics will need 2nd unit ball handling and shot making, and I’m confident that he’ll be able to provide that in the small windows he’s provided. If you think back to the pop that Shane Larkin gave Boston off the bench in 2017-18, Edwards can provide that same sort of energy but with more shooting. It’s hard not to love him if you watched him at all in March, he had an all-time tournament run.
As a small, disruptive two-way point guard, Tremont Waters is essentially just straight-up Shane Larkin. He’s very small, but an explosive athlete. He can score from each level, run pick and roll and completely take out an opponent's lead ball handler. As a first-team all-SEC performer and SEC defensive player of the year, it’s clear that he can play at the highest level in college. However, he will be likely be running the show up in Portland. One thing is for sure, he will make summer league at least 25 percent more fun!