The Celtics spent last Thursday trying to alter their tattered culture, taking four quality college players in the draft who all could have an eventual impact on the team’s future and who could serve as a quartet to lead the Celtics into success in the next decade.
Two of the players are from the Big Ten conference. First-round pick Romeo Langford (14th overall) was an all-conference second team during his lone season at Indiana. Carsen Edwards, taken 33rd overall, was a first-teamer from Purdue who scored 42 points twice during the Boilermakers’ run to the Elite Eight.
We talked to former Indiana coach and ESPN college basketball analyst Dan Dakich about Langford and Edwards. And if you’ve watched or listened to Dakich, he doesn’t hesitate at offering his honest opinion. He assessed both players, starting with Langford.
“He quite frankly can’t shoot,” Dakich said. “He can get to the rim, but he’s got a bad hitch in his stroke, and he’s going to have to get that figured out. Everybody around here [Indiana], because they love him, he’s a great kid and all that, they made excuses. He hurt his thumb, and maybe he did, but he’s never been a great shooter. But I tell you what, the kid can get to the rim.”
Langford has the skills to be a productive shooting guard, but perhaps his draft stock was tainted by the Hoosiers’ 19-16 record, which included 12 conference losses in 13 games and a first-round loss in the Big Ten tournament.
“They had a bad mix,” Dakich said. “Something happened in the locker room, and some people point to Langford. I don’t know what happened. They went from 12-2 to losing 12 in a row. He was coming out no matter what. He’s a really nice kid and a really good kid. I would expect he would get that shooting thing worked out.”
Can Langford become a plus defender? Dakich said he wasn’t asked to be a defensive factor at Indiana because he had so much offensive responsibility.
“I think he should be a defender,” Dakich said. “Romeo just needs a little more experience playing against good players. “He doesn’t play with a great deal of zest — not nonchalant but kind of goes about his business. He averaged 16 as a freshman. Truthfully, he didn’t do a lot to help teams win. He got to the rim once in a while late in games, but he’s going to have to shoot it, and that’s not really his strong suit. He’s an NBA guy because he can get to the basket. He goes right, strong, he finishes really well, and he’s got a really good body.”
Dakich is a big fan of Edwards, who averaged 24.6 points during his junior season.
“That dude comes out of the gym shooting,” Dakich said. “I did a game. He shot 4 of 22 against Indiana. Everybody reminds you of somebody else back in the day, and the way he shoots his shot way behind of his head, he does remind me of Vinnie Johnson. And he’s all score, man. He’s built like a bowling ball. He’s just strong.
“In the modern NBA, where scoring is at a premium, he’ll come in and he will be scoring or trying to score. They’ve got two guys who can put points on the board in different ways. He is a confident, athletic, strong scorer, and he doesn’t dominate the ball. He’s dynamite running off baseline screens. He’s fantastic at it. He can play off the ball.”
Dakich said he texted with Celtics coach Brad Stevens after the draft, who expressed excitement about landing two quality players with Indiana roots.
“Brad is excited because he knows the kids really well,” Dakich said.
“He’s very comfortable with both of these kids not only as players but with social media and all the other things you have to deal with.”
We next talked with SEC Network analyst Pat Bradley, an Everett native who played at Arkansas in the late 1990s and left school as the conference’s all-time leading 3-point shooter. Bradley said he thinks highly of Tennessee forward Grant Williams and Louisiana State’s Tremont Waters.
“I see Grant Williams and there’s a guy he reminds me of in Corliss Williamson,” Bradley said. “What was so special was [Williamson’s] ability to change his body and his game from college to the NBA. He not only had to learn how to play on the wing but defend wing players. The thing about Grant is he is a deceptively quick jumper. He’s a great shot blocker because he can anticipate off the floor. He uses his body really well.
“The other thing I love about Grant Williams is he knows how to get to the free throw line. That’s going to help him out. He’s rugged. He’s durable. He’s developed his jump shot. He’s a willing passer, but when you talk about Grant Williams, his mind is in the right place, his heart in the right place. I just know Grant is going to improve his shooting, and he will grow as a player.”
Waters was the SEC defensive player of the year and led LSU to the Sweet 16 as a sophomore.
Said Bradley: “His vision and body control. His fearlessness. He does not back down from taking the big shot. He had the ability. He’s a high IQ guy. He can knock down the NBA 3. He could have a long NBA career, that’s for sure. He’s definitely an advanced-thinking point guard. He’s definitely a very talented player. He’s got that little general feel about him to lead.
“They are two players who have had to think the game their whole careers, and they aren’t about to stop now.”