NEW YORK — As former Indiana star Romeo Langford sat at a table in the Barclays Center green room at the NBA Draft on Thursday night, he watched as one pick after another strolled across the stage.
“I don’t think Romeo gets nervous, but a lot of guys that went before him, he was like, ‘I know I’m just as good as those guys,’ ” Langford’s father, Tim, said. “But he always said, ‘As long as I get drafted, I don’t care where I go or what number I get picked. I’m going to do the best. I’m going to prove what I can do at this next level and be even better.’ ”
Then the Celtics ended the guard’s wait by selecting him 14th overall, igniting an extremely busy night for Boston that included a pair of trades, one in which center Aron Baynes was sent to the Suns.
Leading up to Thursday night, it was widely expected that the Celtics would be eager and active with their four picks as they tried to reignite something of a rebuild that almost appeared out of nowhere.
After selecting Langford 14th, Boston traded the 20th pick to the 76ers in exchange for the 24th and 33rd picks, per league sources. The Celtics then selected Tennessee forward Grant Williams with the 22nd pick before turning around and trading the 24th pick they had just acquired, as well as Baynes, to the Suns in exchange for a future first-round choice.
That was a 2020 pick that Phoenix had previously acquired from the Bucks. It will be top-seven protected next season, although that will probably not come into play since Milwaukee has such a powerful roster.
The Celtics then selected Purdue sharpshooter Carsen Edwards with the 33rd pick, although that will not be official until the trade is finalized. Edwards averaged 24.3 points per game for the Boilermakers and nearly guided them to an upset of eventual national champion Virginia in a regional final of the NCAA Tournament. Finally, Boston took LSU guard Tremont Waters with the 51st pick.
By trading Baynes, the Celtics freed up $5.4 million in salary cap space for next season. Now, the Celtics will have about $25.8 million in room, a number that could increase to about $34 million if they renounce their rights to restricted free agent Terry Rozier.
Freeing up cap space never seemed to be something Boston would be seeking, as the Celtics appeared years away from having cap space of any kind. But the imminent departure of Kyrie Irving, followed by the news this week that Al Horford will likely pursue an opportunity with another team, has shifted the Celtics’ focus.
When the dust settled, the acquisition of Langford was the most important of the bunch. The former high school All-American was the 13th-ranked prospect in the draft, according to ESPN.
“I see myself as just real smooth,” Langford said. “I think I’m a real versatile player. I feel I can play multiple positions. I can do a lot. Whatever the team needs to be done.”
Langford, a 6-foot-6-inch, 200-pounder, is an athletic shot creator. He struggled with his outside shooting during his lone season with the Hoosiers, shooting just 27.2 percent from beyond the 3-point arc. But he was hampered by an injured thumb on his shooting hand that also kept him from completing any predraft workouts this spring.
“I felt like that did have a little bit of reason why I shot the ball the way I did,” Langford said Thursday night. “But right now I’m getting back into the swing of things. Got my cast off. I’m doing some rehab and therapy.”
Langford averaged 16.5 points and 5.4 rebounds per game for Indiana last season.
“He can do a lot of things on the basketball court,” Celtics coach Brad Stevens told reporters in Boston. “He’s a guy that we think has a lot of things that translate to the NBA. He’s a long, versatile, athletic wing. He can play multiple positions. He can handle the ball. He can play in pick and roll.”
Langford, who met with the Celtics during the NBA Combine in Chicago last month, thought that concerns about his thumb might have impacted his draft stock. But he was happy with the final result.
“These guys, they know what I’m capable of doing,” he said. “I think that’s why the Boston Celtics saw something in me and I think that’s why they decided to pick me at the 14 spot . . . I just feel like the team that they have, everybody’s really versatile and they play positionless basketball. That’s what I excel at.”
Added Tim Langford: “I’m proud of my son, the hard work he put in just to get to this point. I know it’s a long way to go. But just to be selected by Boston, with so many banners and so much tradition. And Brad Stevens, I watched him when he was at Butler. I really admired him then. When the Celtics got him, I was like, ‘OK, they got a good coach.’ So for Romeo to go to an organization with a good coach like that, we’re just happy.”
Romeo Langford said Wednesday he expected to be cleared to play in next month’s NBA summer league.
“I think Smart and Rozier and those guys will toughen him up even more,” said Langford’s agent, Happy Walters, who also represents Celtics guard Marcus Smart. “That mentality, that go 1,000 percent that Romeo has, will be amplified with the Celtics. I think it’s great. They would’ve been one of my top two places for him.”
At the end of a long night, Langford and his friends and family planned to retreat to a private booth in a restaurant at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Manhattan, and soak up this big moment.
In Williams, the Celtics grabbed a powerful, defensive-minded 6-8 forward who averaged 18.8 points and 7.5 rebounds last season for Tennessee, which vaulted to the top of college basketball’s rankings. He was the 27th-ranked prospect in the draft, according to ESPN.
Williams said his grandfather is a big Celtics fans and that he was “drafted by the best franchise possible.”
“I’m a guy who can guard multiple positions,” Williams said. “I’m a guy who on the offensive end can initiate the offense . . . I feel like I’ll fit very well because of the versatility I bring.”
It has been a tumultuous month for the Celtics. With signs increasingly pointing to Irving signing elsewhere this summer, the Celtics failed in their attempts to acquire Anthony Davis from the Pelicans. Then perhaps the most stunning blow came on Tuesday, when sources said that Horford was now planning to sign elsewhere after declining to opt into the final year of his contract.
Suddenly, instead of stockpiling their many draft assets to trade for Davis or make some other sizable move, it became increasingly likely that Boston would actually be in position to use some if not all of its three first-round picks.