• Matt Esposito

Talking Myself Into Liking the Celtics Draft Night


CelticsBlog

When the Boston Celtics were on the clock with the 14th pick, was I rooting (read: praying) for them to select Brandon Clarke? Yes. What about Kevin Porter Jr? Double Yes. Was I a little deflated after seeing the name Romeo Langford pop up on ESPN? Triple yes.

This is a safe space, fellow Celtics fans. Let it out. Seeing that name come onto my screen felt like when you found out your school received only a 90-minute delay while all of the surrounding schools got a snow day. But after sulking for a few solid minutes, my optimism kicked in. It only revved up more as the draft went on.

Allow me to talk you into liking all four of the Celtics draft selections. To clarify, Danny Ainge and his cohort took Langford with the 14th pick, Grant Williams with the 22nd, NCAA Tournament star Carsen Edwards at pick number 33 and Tremont Waters with their final second round selection.

The case for Romeo Langford

Coming into the NCAA season Langford was ESPN’s top-rated shooting guard and fifth best high school prospect. Several early season draft boards projected Langford to be selected in the top seven. So, why did he fall?

Langford suffered a torn hand ligament while playing for Indiana University. Although he was not known to be a remarkable 3-point shooter, it was probably responsible for knocking his percentage down to an ugly 27.2 percent.

Yet, Langford had a stretch of 10 consecutive, tough conference games where he hit 35.6 percent of his triples while taking 4.5 per game. There is a legitimate hope that Langford heals up, retools his release point by not bringing the ball so far back towards his head, and becomes a league average perimeter shooter. Combine this with his slippery shot-creation package and his high ceiling becomes visible.

His non-perimeter game is what we should be discussing, however. Langford was the best NCAA at-rim finisher during half-court possessions. Literally. According to Sam Vecenie and Synergy, Langford ranked first in this metric out of 388 NCAA players. The man shot 78 percent at the bucket during half-court chances. Couple this with his elite free throw rate comparative to his position, and the Cs may have something here.

There is defensive potential too. At 6-foot-6 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, Langford has the tools to be a solid defender. Former head coach Archie Miller praised the midseason defensive improvements from Langford, claiming that his star player simply needed to master the strategies. If Langford puts all of this together then we may be singing Ainge’s praises once more.

The case for Grant Williams

I was ecstatic when the Cs took Williams with the 22nd pick because coming into this draft I had him 13th on my big board. Why am I all in on the former two-time SEC Player of the Year?

It is not a stretch to say that Williams possesses the highest basketball IQ in this draft. The Volunteers initiated much of their offense through him and Williams rewarded by dishing or scoring often on the short roll. He may be the best passer at his position for his draft class.

Williams has questions about his perimeter shooting, sure. But he is trending the right way. With free throw percentage being a well-known indicator of 3-point shooting, I was pleased to see Williams improve his percentage in each collegiate season, finishing at 81 percent. His excellent work ethic suggests that becoming league average from deep is a real possibility.

Defense is where Williams has the most potential, however. I can’t allow myself to compare him to Draymond Green, despite the obvious physical and IQ similarities. Yet, Williams could develop into a diet version of Draymond; something Ainge has been hunting for.

Williams has great fundamentals and slides well for a 240-pounder. Plus, he is always in the right position to make help or make steals. His greatest strength is…well…his strength. Vecenie comes to the rescue again, claiming that Williams posted historically high in pre-draft strength testing. A heady forward who can bang with bigs while also sticking to quicker players, Williams could be the one to end Ainge’s search.

The case for second-round picks Carsen Edwards and Tremont Waters

You probably know Edwards from his electric March Madness performances. A high-volume shooter from Purdue, Edwards still managed to make 35.5 percent of the 10.6 3-pointers he attempted per game. There is a great chance Edwards sees his shot selection, and therefore shooting percentage improve as he transitions from his college role to his NBA role.

You will also like that this 6-foot guard boasts a 6-foot-6 wingspan and a strong frame. If Edwards embraces his role and focuses on his defensive potential, he could be reminiscent of the Scary Terry Celtics fans were in love with before this season.

Next up, Tremont Waters. Do I like Waters because a friend of mine used to go to summer camps with him? Partially. But I listed him as a potential second-round gem because he is a top tier guard defender, as evidenced by his SEC Defensive Player of the Year award. The expectations for a 51st pick are low but, do not be surprised if Waters carves out a career as a defensive specialist who takes care of the ball.

#2019NBAfinals #2019NBADraft #CelticsExpress #MattEsposito

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