Romeo Langford was predominantly an afterthought in the trade deadline deal that sent Derrick White to Boston Celtics a season ago. Not only had the former top-five high school recruit failed to live up to the expectations of being a lottery pick, but a medley of nicks and bruises drove him to the sidelines for 106 of his first 200 games in Beantown.
Those troubles followed Langford to San Antonio, where he only suited up in four games, playing through the pain of adductor tightness from almost the second he set foot on the hardwood. Despite a nondescript reputation heading into his second season with the Spurs, the fourth-year swingman eventually carved out a role in the starting lineup as 2023 began.
Langford averaged 9.5 points while shooting a respectable 49.5% from the field and 36.8% from beyond the arc in 13 games as a spot starter, looking like the sort of opportunistic scorer every team would love to have in their rotation. Unfortunately for Romeo, the injury bug struck again, leaving him indefinitely out of commission and dousing his momentum.
The sample size from Langford is admittedly scant, but he gave the Spurs a handful of reasons to buy into his complementary talents.
Although the six-five guard initially struggled to adjust to a lesser load as his prolific point production never translated from college ball to the NBA, he has remade his game to serve as the fourth or fifth option for offenses that already possess go-to bucket-getters.
Romeo can migrate to the corners for wide-open catch-and-shoot threes, attack the rim off second-side actions when his man closes too strong, or slink backdoor for timely cuts. He can get downhill using dribble handoffs, accurately fill lanes on the break, and excels at cleaning the glass for tip-ins and putback slams.
Langford could afford to be more efficient on these looks, and his off-ball activity periodically wanes, but the fundamentals are mostly in place.
His forays into self-creation have become rare. However, the 23-year-old has flashed the aptitude to carry secondary ballhandling duties. Langford has a simple yet effective package of dribble moves to navigate the pick-and-roll and get to his spots near the elbows or finish inside the paint.
While the Spurs don't deploy Langford as a lead play initiator, he still has decent passing chops. He hits teammates in transition, finds trailers, and is willing to pass up good shots to swing the rock around the horn until it connects with an uncovered sharpshooter. That unselfish mindset makes him a helpful connective tissue for a team that relies on ball movement to generate points.
Defense is where Romeo derives most of his value. His motor runs white-hot, and he takes his man-to-man assignments personally. The well-built wing has covered All-Stars like Karl-Anthony Towns, Damian Lillard, Paul George, Donovan Mitchell, Kawhi Leonard, Jayson Tatum, LeBron James, Jaylen Brown, and Rudy Gobert. Most impressive? He held them to 12-of-30 shooting from the field in 152.8 partial possessions.
That positional versatility is priceless for the Spurs as the rest of the NBA transitions towards more switch-heavy schemes.
With a 216-pound frame and a six-eleven wingspan, Langford can pick off ill-advised passes from a man away, bother drives with punctual digs, and offer peripheral rim protection with weakside rotations, absorbing contact with his chest utilizing textbook verticality.
All these skills bring us back to square one. Health has been a substantial question mark for Langford, and he hasn't instilled much confidence in his long-term durability. Nonetheless, San Antonio could likely re-sign Romeo for relatively cheap this summer. If he can stay on the court and flesh out his two-way talents, that team-friendly investment has the potential for a profitable payoff.