The New York Knicks are headed for the NBA Draft lottery yet again. Indiana’s Romeo Langford could be just the player they covet.
Frank Ntilikina, Kevin Knox, Kristaps Porzingis, Mitchell Robinson.
These are the names of New York Knicks future. The youth that they’ve invested in as building blocks of the franchise.
Currently on pace for 20 wins or less, New York is almost guaranteed a draft pick in the 1-5 rank. Plenty of talent is available in what was reportedly a “thin class,” and this pick could end up being the last of the rebuild.
So, with that being said, they should look past the likes of flashy big men and round out their guard rotation with this year’s draft selection. Indiana’s Romeo Langford stands out, among others.
With a young roster forming, his fit on the Knicks is hard to ignore. A look at what Langford brings to New York, and why they should be considered compatible.
Langford's Got Game
Averaging 18.8 points, 5.5 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game, Langford is projected to fall no later than fourth overall.
At 19-years-old, he’s lead the Indiana Hoosiers to a 12-4 record this season. Langford’s the fourth best scorer in the Big Ten Conference and leads all guards in rebounds per game.
A high-scoring combo guard who’s got speed and a great basketball IQ already as a rookie. Langford can score from anywhere on the floor, but excels in finishing through traffic.
He’s taking smart shots; utilizing his killer fadeaway in the mid-range, or handles to create space. Langford’s averaging 8.8 two-point attempts per game.
For perspective, that’s what Tim Hardaway Jr. averages now, as (excuse my language): a grown ass man in the NBA.
In total, Langford averages 12.4 field goal attempts per game, and on an efficient .513 clip. That percentage ranks him first among guards in the Big Ten Conference.
The 19-year old guard already has a solid grasp on how to draw fouls, and it shows on the stat line. He set a career-high 28 points in a win over Illinois, behind 15 trips to the free-throw line:
Langford’s attempting an average of 6.8 free throws per game and putting them down at a .716 clip. He’s taken to his speed and 6-foot-11 wingspan to earn those fouls, and it’ll translate to the NBA.
New York also does well in terms of free throws. As they’re in the top half of the league when it comes to free throw shooting, attempts, and makes. They rank 12th, eighth and 12th, respectively.
Whether it be due to their inability to function as an offense, or the lack of strong shooters, New York ranks 23rd in points per game. A shifty combo-guard with an eye for the basket could more than help give that a boost.
(As well as Kristaps Porzingis’ return, but more on that later.)
With a technique and stroke as smooth as Langford’s, you can almost draw the comparisons to Brooklyn’s D’Angelo Russell.
They’re both creative on offense and can score on all three levels. Not to mention Langford’s court vision, which is already transcending cross-court passes to fast breaks, and consistently following the flow of the game on his route to the open man.
Indiana’s lead guard is getting better day by day, and could be playing on an entire other level come draft day. On Jan. 3, he set his career-high at 28 points. Then just two games later, he reproduced another 28 points, in a loss to Maryland.
Langford’s game is escalating daily, and he’ll won’t turn 20 until October next season. With an ever-lifting ceiling, his fit in New York is hard to dismiss.
New York Should Groom a SG
With the future approaching, all signs of the former Knicks regime are slowly fading into oblivion. Or wherever it is Phil Jackson posts those photos of his feet on social media.
Nonetheless, it’s hard to not see a hole at two-guard drawing nearer and nearer in New York.
Tim Hardaway Jr. will likely be traded before finishing out his contract. Courtney Lee is undoubtedly leaving in free agency, if not before via trade. Damyean Dotson is a second-round prospect who looks more comfortable at the three.
That’s it. Among other guards: Emmanuel Mudiay and Trey Burke will both likely exit to their own free agencies. Frank Ntilikina has played the two, but looks best when running the offense at the point.
Allonzo Trier could be the lone true shooting guard on New York’s roster come next season. So, adding another young player to their backcourt makes plenty of sense.
Head coach David Fizdale has seen some success in reviving Emmanuel Mudiay’s career, and worked with (the best All-Star guard that never was) Mike Conley in Memphis.
I trust him more to develop upcoming guards than big men, although it’s subject to change upon Porzingis’ return.
All that said, New York can put together a freshly drafted five man roster if they bring home a shooting guard in this year’s draft. It’s nice to have a piece to build on at every position, especially when four of five having come from the lottery.
Barring a huge roster move like signing a top-tier free agent (rhymes with Loorant), the Knicks future is still widely abstract. Enough so, that the team can use whatever talent they can get their hands on.
In the case of the 2019 NBA Draft, it’s all about what position that falls upon. New York would be wise to add another young guard to their rotation, and even wiser to have that guard be Romeo Langford of Indiana University.