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The Celtics’ offseason roster overhaul left the team with a whopping seven rookies on their 17-man roster this season. Among that group were four 2019 draft picks, a French import, a 26-year-old overseas journeyman, and an undrafted 7-foot-7 big man.
Conventional wisdom suggested that the lone lottery pick in that bunch — 14th overall pick Romeo Langford — would be the player most likely to muscle his way into early playing time. Instead, as the Celtics get early rookie contributions up and down their roster, Langford has logged a mere 14 seconds of NBA court time and, on Monday, the team assigned him to the Maine Red Claws of the G-League in order to get much-needed reps.
The news of Langford’s assignment was met with typical Twitter hot takes, including those eager to pronounce Langford a bust. There were James Young comparisons and familiar laments about how Miami sharpshooter Tyler Herro went off the board a pick earlier.
So let’s start the Mailbag there, with thoughts on Langford’s situation:
Wherefore art thou Romeo? Yeah, he's had knocks, but what's up with this guy? — @tom_steely
Boston’s wing depth always made it likely that Langford was going to be brought along slowly. An assortment of injuries made that an easier decision but Langford’s crawl has left him in the crosshairs of Celtics fans eager to see more immediate production.
Langford played his freshman season at Indiana with a thumb injury that likely contributed to him sliding to 14. Rehab from after-the-season surgery sidelined him for summer league, then a groin injury held him out of parts of training camp. In the preseason, Langford tweaked his knee during exhibition play and was still rehabbing at the start of the regular season.
Celtics coach Brad Stevens noted Monday how the Celtics utilized Langford as scout team Giannis Antetokounmpo last week before the team’s win over Milwaukee. He said the organization believes Langford is better served getting a solid week of practice reps in Maine rather than playing spot minutes on the team’s three-game trip.
The downside for Langford is that Jaylen Brown will miss his third straight game Tuesday and there has been an opportunity for a wing to help fill that void. Unfortunately, Langford's lack of reps before the season made it unlikely that the team could lean too heavy on him now.
It’s prudent to remember that Langford only turned 20 last month and it’s easy to forget how highly regarded he was coming out of high school given his injury woes.
That said, it’s important that Langford maximize his time in Maine. No lottery pick wants to be stuck in the G-League but there’s a lot of parallels here with Avery Bradley during his rookie season. Bradley suffered a pre-draft ankle injury that contributed both to his draft-night slide and a slow start in Boston. The Celtics dispatched him to Maine in January 2011 and he came back with newfound confidence.
It still took Bradley another season before he really kicked in the door. But it’s a reminder not to judge players too early. But Langford has to go to Maine looking to assert himself and not lament the time in the minor league.
Do you think that the small ball lineups relying on speed and disrupting passing lanes is sustainable over the course of the season? — @porasidecirl0
I’m not sure the Celtics have much of a choice. If six of the team’s best players are all 6-foot-8 and under, it’s small ball or bust. The question, of course, is just how small can you go?
With Enes Kanter and Robert Williams sidelined early in the year, the Celtics have been OK with lineups that have either 6-foot-6 rookie Grant Williams or 6-foot-8 Jayson Tatum operating as the “biggest” player on the floor. Is that sustainable? If the Celtics find themselves in the mix at the top of the East in February, it might encourage them to beef up the center spot given potential playoff matchups — but some of that could hinge on the development of their younger bigs.
Right now, Stevens has no choice but to play small and implore his perimeter defenders to be extra aggressive. That’s translated to an opponent turnover rate of 18.1 percent — fifth best in the league after lingering at what would have been historic rates at the start of the year.
It might help the Celtics long term to crank the pace a bit more than their currently plodding ways (19th in pace at 101.6) but it hasn’t stopped them from posting the NBA’s best second-half offensive rating (122.7) despite playing at a slower speed.
Out of these four guys rumored to be potential trade targets for the Celtics, which do you think is most likely: Steven Adams, Clint Capela, Tristan Thompson, Draymond Green. — @RebornDeadeye
I’d lean towards none of the above. Adams is making $25.8 million this year and is on the books for $27.5 million next year. A deal would likely have to send out Gordon Hayward, too. Thompson’s salary is a bit more agreeable as an expiring at $18.5 million but the Celtics are not going to bundle Marcus Smart and pieces to make that happen. The Warriors will just throttle down Green and reboot for next year. Capela’s name comes up an awful lot for a team that doesn’t have much motivation to sell off pieces. Plus, we’re convinced that you’ve got Capela 2.0 in your system. Which is a good segue to …
The first couple of games, Brad ran a few insane lobs for Lord Robert Williams III. It's clear C's know he needs to step up for them to contend, but what's his ceiling this year? And if he hits it, is there another ceiling for this team in a wide-open year? — @MarvelousMarks
You hear that? In the distance? It’s the Robert Williams Hype Train! And as conductor, I can tell you that steam whistle will be getting louder starting as early as Tuesday night in Cleveland.
Williams has been very good in limited minutes. He’s got the best net rating on the team at plus-18.2 with the Celtics putting up solid ratings on both offense (116.7) and defense (98.5) during his 61 minutes of floor time. The team’s pace has been cranked with Williams on the floor and Boston is plus-23 in his time (best number on the team behind only Jayson Tatum at plus-53).
Has Williams been perfect? No. But his passing abilities and rim-running ways make him a really intriguing fit in Boston’s wing-heavy lineups that can spread the floor. If Williams can develop more defensive consistency and learn when to chase those highlight-worthy blocks, then he might just emerge as a key contributor.
The caveat here: The Celtics have picked their spots with Williams. He didn’t play with Joel Embiid on the court against Philly and spent 8 seconds on Antetokounmpo. He’s got strides to make to be a starter-caliber big man but he has all the tools to get there.
Not sure how much it pushes up Boston’s overall ceiling because some of that hinges on Boston’s ability to defend the likes of Embiid and Antetokounmpo but certainly having a young improving center as part of this core would be important for the Celtics in the long term.
Who’s next to get a haircut? — @Spitfire_988
The Celtics don’t have a lot of players with choppable hair at this point. Gordon Hayward would be the most shocking but our money would be on Marcus Smart buzzing his hair at some point this season. One hair certainty: I’m not buzzing off the fauxhawk any time soon.
Who had the best hair, pre-cut? Jaylen Brown, Carsen Edwards, or Semi Ojeleye? — @niravbarman27
Brown in a landslide. Sure, that flat top wasn’t always flat — and old friend Isaiah Thomas made sure Brown knew as much with his repeated barbs — but the Kid N’ Play look was dynamite and I’m still getting used to Brown not having it. We’ll miss Edwards’ dreads bouncing around on the court.
If Kemba Walker and Marcus Smart were somehow both out for a game, who's your starting point guard? — @KJHcomedy
Brad Wanamaker is the obvious choice here but I’m going off the board. In a super-shorthanded situation, I’d like to see the Celtics recall Tremont Waters and give him a chance to run the NBA offense. Brian Scalabrine is convinced Waters could win the G-League MVP with his pick-and-roll skills and it’s clear the second-round pick operates at a different speed than most rookies when he’s probing for opportunities.
If Kemba Walker averages 26/5/5 and the Celtics win 60 games, is he the MVP? — @TroyYacy11
No, but he’d get some consideration, especially if the Celtics finished ahead of Philadelphia and Milwaukee in the East. During Isaiah Thomas’ MVP-consideration season in 2016-17, he averaged 28.9 points and 5.9 assists. It was also the way he dominated fourth quarters that upped his stock. Walker would probably have to be closer to that 30-point mark to really make voters consider him.
Red Panda every halftime? — @RyanBenharris
Wouldn’t fight it. But I think I’d need a bigger rotation. Maybe Panda and The Amazing Sladek split the majority of regular-season games. Then we work in some others. Just not the guys who fling paint and make a messy picture of one of the team’s stars. Literally like watching paint dry.
Are we bringing back the Big Baby Glen Davis #ChargeWatch for the three-headed monster of GRANT, Smarf, and Kemba? — @pbernazzani7
Considering it. I’m not sure the Celtics have ever had this many willing charge-takers on one roster. It’s not like Kevin Garnett was taking a charge during the Big Baby days. I think a #ChargeWatch Leaderboard will be a steady feature given the way these guys could fight to be among the team leaders.
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