Chicago — Judging by the number of meetings the Pistons had at the NBA Draft Combine, they’re focusing their efforts on finding at least one wing among the various college prospects. Several said they worked out with the Pistons, though that’s not a definitive indication of whether the Pistons have interest.
There will be many more interviews and workouts over the course of the next few weeks in preparation for the draft on June 20. It’s pretty clear — both from their roster construction and their second half of the season — that the Pistons will be looking to bolster the wing position.
One option could be Indiana’s Romeo Langford, a 6-foot-6 versatile phenom who averaged 16.5 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists. With a 6-11 wingspan, he has some intangibles that could interest the Pistons, though the numbers don’t tell the whole story about his single season with the Hoosiers.
Langford didn’t participate in 5-on-5 scrimmages at the combine and didn’t do many of the other measurables, as he was sporting a cast on his right (shooting) hand.
“I don’t want to use my thumb as an excuse for the way I shot, but it did bother me a lot and affected me in a huge way when it came to my shooting,” Langford said. “My form still needs a tweak here and there. I can still shoot the ball; there’s no (question) about that. I still should be labeled as a shooter.”
Before his freshman season, Langford was regarded as one of the top NBA prospects in the country. But with Indiana’s struggles and the thumb injury — in addition to a back injury that has gotten better — there are questions about whether those early projections were a mirage or whether he might be one of the hidden gems in a draft stocked with wing options.
“My back is 100 percent; there’s no problem with that anymore and I’m going to get my cast off shortly and I’ll be shooting again,” Langford said. “I’ve been able to do everything based upon my left hand. I’ve been on the court doing stuff and in the weight room doing modified workouts.”
Other wings such as Stanford’s KZ Okpala, Southern California’s Kevin Porter Jr. and Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson all have questions that need to be answered about their draft position.
Put Langford with them on that list.
Langford, though, said he had a good meeting with the Pistons, where some of those questions could have been answered.
“Great interview, great meeting I had with them,” he said. “I just felt like I can add to that wing spot that they can use off the bench or bring the ball up the court. I can also be a backup point guard if they want to play big ball.”
Beyond his on-court skills, there are questions about how engaged he is and whether that motivation and drive will carry him to the NBA. It’s a valid red flag for many players who have shorter college careers and don’t get a chance to exhibit their whole game.
Langford fits that description, but he’s ready to show, when he has his cast removed, that questions about him are unfounded.
“That’s just the confidence I have in myself and the things I’m capable of doing. I know I can shoot the ball. I didn’t shoot it well last year, but I know I can shoot it,” he said. “(The low-first-round talk) really doesn’t surprise me, based off what they saw; that’s what they’re going off of
“It doesn’t matter what number you get picked; it’s the team and the fit once you get there.”
There aren’t many questions about Langford’s overall ability to score, as he looked smooth at times at Indiana, but his 3-point shooting (27 percent) left something to be desired. The pre-draft workouts can help to turn around some of that, but he’ll have to do some work to match the level of a player he compares himself to -- Bradley Beal.
“When I watch the Washington Wizards and see Bradley Beal play, I feel like I have that same skill set and I can bring that to an NBA team,” Langford said. “His ability to score the ball and size and length at the position. He also can play (point guard) if he has to and he defends at a high level.”