The 2021 Boston Celtics roster looks quite different than in 2020. The point guard position lacks a primary scorer for the first time in years. Brad Stevens moved upwards in the organizational chart. The bench underwent a rehaul. Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown remain, locked into long-term deals. Much has been made about needing to surround these two All-Star wings with enough talent to compete. The “Fire and Ice” combo are two huge pieces to the Boston puzzle, yet that duo is not the most intriguing one here. No, fans already know what to expect from Brown and Tatum; it’s the rest of the team that needs to prove their worth. Well, there just so happens to be a pair of players on the bench that are trending upwards in a big way. Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford: The Boston Celtics’ “other” wing duo that is ready to step up.
The Boston Celtics’ “Other” Wing Duo That is Ready Step Up
Setting the Duo’s Stage
First, what exactly does “step up” mean for a couple of bench guys on rookie deals? Well, they don’t exactly need to be All-Stars themselves in any way, that’s clear. But new head coach Ime Udoka has stated multiple times he wishes to have one of Tatum or Brown on the court as much as possible. That means that Langford and Nesmith will be looked at in key depth roles to fill those shoes. Big ones to fill no doubt, but after the pair finished third and fourth in scoring respectively during the Celtics’ preseason, both on over 50% shooting, there are early signs that they’re capable. Improvements for the Boston Celtics roster are in-house.
Drafted 14th overall in last season’s draft, it took Nesmith quite a bit of time to make headway on the Boston Celtics’ roster. He was a DNP in 13 of the team’s first 23 games and cracked over 20 minutes on court in just eleven total games. Thought to be the best three-point specialist in his class, Nesmith started making his impact in the hustle category instead. A lot of diving for loose balls, strong rebounds, etc. Now, in this year’s summer league and preseason, he’s showing his game has rounded out.
Used primarily as a spot-up shooter, Nesmith has shown that not only is that still a part of his game, but his scoring ability extends to multiple levels. Take his 23 point performance against the Magic for example. There were finishes at the rim, turnaround jumpers, and threes off the dribble. For a team that has lacked a consistent sixth-man for some time, Nesmith’s promising scoring numbers would be invaluable. Not to mention he’s still got that fire on defense and high motor that was on display his rookie season. Keep that word “fire” in mind.
Drafted 14th overall in the 2019 draft, Langford’s career has been marred by injuries. In two seasons of action, he’s played just four games more than Nesmith did in one year. Langford thus far has been little more than a placeholder on offense, rarely taking scoring into his own hands. When he has tried to score, he hasn’t been good either, having more field goal attempts than points scored in each of his first two years. If you’re wondering if that’s good or not, it most certainly is not.
Where Langford showed promise though was on defense. He’s displayed his ability to lock guys down and use his size to his advantage on smaller wings to block shots. Maybe not the production one would want on a guy who notably went one pick after Tyler Herro. However, Langford’s early preseason success has backed up a tale as old as time: don’t write guys off too soon.
Langford’s career field goal percentage is 35%. His career percentage from three is 22%. In the Celtics’ four preseason games this year, those splits are to the tune of 55.9%/60%. There’s always the argument that “it’s just the preseason”. However, that is a drastic improvement that simply can’t be ignored. Adding an efficient jump-shot to a player whose defensive prowess is complemented by an ice-cold demeanor could make for a very important player off the bench.
The Duo Comparisons
Using “fire” and “ice” to describe Nesmith and Langford is no coincidence, as that’s the nickname given to the Tatum-Brown pairing. The linking of a nickname isn’t the only similarity these duos share too.
Nesmith, like Tatum, is a purer shooter than his duo partner and showed flashes in his rookie year (Tatum obviously showed much greater flashes). Langford, like Brown, came into the league as a very raw offensive talent, making his initial impressions on the defensive end. The two also share the trait of being castoffs. Brown’s selection back in 2016 was maligned by fans who wanted Kris Dunn instead. That feeling wasn’t helped by his quiet rookie year. Langford has been doubted at every turn due to his injuries, with the word “bust” being thrown constantly.
With the need to support Tatum and Brown being paramount to Boston’s success, the team will have to rely on a chorus of young players like Payton Pritchard and Robert Williams. Yet none two may need to step up more than Aaron Nesmith and Romeo Langford. The Celtics “other” wing duo.
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