Mike Schumann / The Daily Hoosier

NBA Draft Analysts Willing to Give Romeo Langford the Benefit of the Doubt

It seems that NBA Draft analysts are willing to take a much more holistic view of Indiana’s Romeo Langford than the voices in an unfortunate and loud vocal minority of Hoosier fans.

“Bust.”  “Overrated.” “Overhyped.”

Those are just some of the common, albeit lazy refrains often belched out in conversations, social media and anywhere else that IU fans gather.

“Not emotionally intelligent.”  “Intellectually dishonest.”

Those are other thoughts that come to mind, mine in fact, in reference to said fans.

It isn’t entirely the fault of those fans oddly insistent on perpetual negativity.  Langford was in fact hyped to ridiculous levels.

But by the same token, it isn’t the fault of the media that some less informed basketball fans didn’t realize that Langford’s near 40 point per game high school scoring average wasn’t going to translate to the Big Ten.

For them, Super Romeo was going to fly up from New Albany and save the day ala Michael Jordan in Space Jam.

Space Jam GIF

Anything short of that wasn’t going to be enough.  The notions were preconceived.

Look, Langford had a frustrating season at times.  That much is fair, and he has said as much.  Indiana clearly had a disappointing season — for a number of reasons.

But what if I told you this about an anonymous five-star recruit’s freshman season in the Big Ten —

  • Second team all-Big Ten
  • Led team in scoring
  • Led all Big Ten freshmen in scoring
  • Sixth in Big Ten overall in scoring
  • Third highest scoring average among major college freshmen
  • Second on the team in rebounds and blocks, third in assists, fourth in steals
  • Third most points ever by an IU freshman
  • Described as an improving defensive player over the course of the season even by his harshest critics

When you take the hype and Langford’s name out of the equation and just look at that resume without bias there is only one thing that you can conclude — he was an unmitigated success.

And it’s only half of the story.

Langford played nearly the entire season with a torn thumb ligament that created discomfort and required a bulky wrap on his shooting hand.

AJ Mast/Associated Press

Langford came to Indiana with the clear goal of playing one season and then moving on to the NBA.  Already a first round pick before he ever stepped on campus, that sort of mindset makes perfect sense.

So when he was diagnosed with a dislocated thumb in November, the easy thing to do would have been to shut things down and prepare for the NBA Draft.  He could have had his surgery much sooner, and thus would have been fully prepared for this week’s NBA Draft Combine.

Instead he is missing out on much of this week’s events with a cast still on his right hand, thereby allowing the doubts to persist about his perimeter shot.

Rather than pulling a Nick Bosa and calling it quits on his season, Langford played through an entire campaign knowing full well that the wrap on his shooting hand could only negatively impact his play — and thus only negatively impact his NBA Draft status.

And that is exactly what happened.

But he doesn’t regret playing hurt for essentially his entire college career.  Instead, Langford felt he owed it to his teammates.

“My teammates needed me, I wanted to be there for them,” Langford told reporters this week. “I didn’t want them to think I was sitting out just (to avoid hurting his draft position) or that I’m just using Indiana as a pit-stop for the NBA.”

We don’t owe Langford a debt of gratitude for his freshman season.  He committed to IU and he did what he was supposed to do — he played.

But by the same token, if you can’t look past all of the noise and see that a 19 year old young man honored his commitment, did the best that he could do, and had a pretty damn impressive season, well then, as a fan I would have to say that you are a bust, overrated, and overhyped.

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Fortunately for Langford, NBA-types don’t evaluate him through the fuzzy lens of fandom.

Bobby Marks, who is a draft analyst for ESPN and a former VP and Assistant GM with the Brooklyn Nets discussed Langford yesterday on a conference call.

Marks addressed how a player like Langford will be evaluated in light of the thumb injury.

BOBBY MARKS: Yeah, I think it’s what you have seen him do during the summer before he got to Indiana, either through Team USA or Nike Hoop, kind of is there a baseline there before? That’s the big challenge, where you’re basically using a 20-game sample to take a player at pick 16 here. I think his individual workouts will certainly help the process. I think how he interviews, what his medicals come back at will either move him up the board or down the board.

There’s no exact science to the draft process. Sometimes you’re kind of just basing it on dust. He’s not a player who was there for three years where you have a 60-game sample. So, you have to rely on what you saw at Indiana, what you saw beforehand, and a lot of your background, either when you are dealing with the Indiana coaching staff to get more background on the kid.

Mike Schmitz, another ESPN NBA Draft analyst, echoes our sentiment that the thumb injury clearly played a role in Langford’s efficiency from the field.

MIKE SCHMITZ: Yeah, and in terms of how the injury affected his stock, I think it does. You have to take into account the fact that this kid played through this, and having an injury on your shooting hand is not easy to deal with, especially when you’re a guy who maybe that’s the biggest question about your game is whether or not you’re going to be able to make shots at the NBA level. I think it’s definitely something that teams need to take into consideration, that he played through that, and that it has clearly affected his percentages in some ways. (emphasis added)

With that said, he wasn’t a great shooter prior to this season at Indiana, so I think that was a question mark regardless, but I think it’s something that teams definitely have to take into consideration. I could see him going anywhere from kind of like 8 to 14. He’s not for everyone just because I think his motor can be a little bit up and down, but in terms of his talent, I mean, there’s a reason he came into the draft, I think potentially even in our top five, just because he’s kind of a prototype two guard who can score at all three levels and at least has the tools to defend even though he has room to improve there.

So I think teams are all over the board with him, but I could see him going anywhere from 8 to 14.

Getting selected as pick No. 8 to 14 doesn’t exactly sound like a player that was a bust or overrated, does it?

A true bust isn’t getting drafted — they are getting told to go back to college.

These are independent takes from folks that are able to provide a fair assessment without emotional bias.

No one is trying to argue that Indiana’s season was anything other than a disappointment, just as no one is saying that Langford’s lone season at IU went precisely as expected.

But the bottom line is this.  Despite the injury, Romeo Langford gave IU everything that he had.  He represented the school and the state well, and by all accounts is a good kid.

Indiana fans should be beaming with pride when his name is called in the first round of the NBA Draft.  This is who we want to represent us and have our kids look up to.

He’ll likely go on to have a long and productive NBA career, all the while representing his school and his state in a positive manner.

Of course it will never be good enough for some fans.

But the truth is that Romeo Langford is too good for them.


See also:

Langford talks to the media at the NBA Draft Combine.


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