NEW ALBANY, Ind. (WDRB) — One after another, the 14 names scrolled across the bottom of the screen on the televisions at Dejays Cutting Edge hair salon.
Zion Williamson … Ja Morant … RJ Barrett … Jarrett Culver … Tyler Herro.
But no mention of the kid who once regularly had his hair styled at this popular spot on State Street: New Albany High School’s Romeo Langford.
Will Langford’s hometown fan club be celebrating their favorite player hearing his name called in the NBA Draft Lottery (first 14 picks) Thursday night in Brooklyn or will they be forced to pace, ponder and wait for Langford to be summoned out of the Green Room by NBA commissioner Adam Silver at pick 15, 16, 17, 18 or lower?
“We hope he goes in the lottery, but nobody is really sure right now,” said D.J. Mattingly, the salon’s owner and one of four stylists working Wednesday afternoon. “He’s good enough to be in the lottery, but with everything that happened last season, you don’t know what is going to happen. Maybe he’ll go 18th to Indiana. That would make everybody happy, because then they could see him play all the time.”
Questions abound for Draft Night, but locally, this one remains atop the list:
Will Langford be selected in the lottery?
Jonathan Givony of Draft Express at ESPN.com is considered a leading draft analyst. His latest mock draft has Langford at No. 15, one spot outside the lottery, to the Detroit Pistons.
BusinessInsider.com compiled seven mock drafts. The consensus for Langford was No. 12 to Charlotte.
I asked the question to two NBA scouts and one TV basketball analyst and received a split decision.
“No lottery,” a scout from an Eastern Conference team said in a text message.
“From 13 to 18,” the basketball TV analyst said.
If you were hoping for clarity, forget about it. Another NBA scout put Langford’s range from as high as the eighth pick to as low as No. 25.
“Let me explain,” said the scout from a Western Conference team. “This is a really hard draft to predict, because so many teams are trying to make trades.
“Everybody agrees on the first three picks (Williamson of Duke to New Orleans; Morant of Murray State to Memphis and Barrett of Duke to the New York Knicks).
“After that, anything can happen. You’ve got a lot of teams trying to dump their picks to clear salary space.
“You’ve got other teams trying to collect second-round picks. Then there are teams trying to move up and get the players they really want. So it’s tougher than usual to predict this year.”
Langford’s freshman season at Indiana did little to improve the clarity. He averaged 16.5 points per game, more than any Big Ten freshman. Williamson and Barrett, the twin towers at Duke, were the only freshmen from Power Five leagues who averaged more. Langford went for at least 20 points in 11 games.
But he made less than 28% of his shots from distance and struggled at the foul line for the first six weeks. Indiana missed the NCAA Tournament. Critics studied Langford’s shooting form, his propensity to drive right and his placid body language. They saw things they didn’t like.
That ignited the talk that Langford slipped out of the lottery.
The narrative appeared to shift again over the last month. Langford’s tender back has healed. He had surgery on his injured right thumb. Langford and his advisers worked to answer every question NBA teams had about last season.
“I think they’ve done a great job with that, taking it head on,” one NBA scout said. “With the right team, he can be a very productive player.”
Now, the serious waiting begins. Langford was invited to New York to be in the Barclays Center when his name will be called Thursday night.
No. 12 to Charlotte? The Hornets could use a guard who can score, especially if they are convinced that Kemba Walker, an unrestricted free agent, is departing.
No. 13 to Miami? Somebody needs to take Dwyane Wade’s minutes.
No. 14 to Boston? As usual, the Celtics have multiple first-round picks. They can bet on Langford and wait for him to develop with one of them.
No. 15 to Detroit? If there is a consensus pick, it is the Pistons.
No. 18 to Indiana? Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star wrote a compelling column about why the home state franchise should draft the 2018 Mr. Basketball.
“Somebody will believe in him and get a good player,” an NBA scout said.
Just don’t ask which team.
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