The top two college basketball players in the state are expected to hear their names called in Thursday night’s NBA Draft.
Whether one of them stays close to home with the Indiana Pacers remains to be seen.
Former Indiana standout guard Romeo Langford remains projected as a mid-first round pick, while Purdue All-American guard Carsen Edwards could go late in the first round or early in the second round.
The 6-foot-4 Langford, who averaged a team-high 16.5 points as a freshman at IU while playing through a thumb injury, will be among 23 players at the NBA Draft green room in Brooklyn, N.Y.
A former New Albany standout and 2018 Indiana Mr. Basketball, Langford displayed an explosive first step in his lone season at IU but struggled shooting from the perimeter, going 27.2 percent from 3-point range. There were also questions about Langford’s willingness to stay engaged defensively and move without the basketball on offense while with the Hoosiers.
Langford told reporters at the NBA predraft press conference in New York City on Wednesday his recovery from thumb surgery is going well, and he expects to play in NBA summer league games. He had the cast removed from his thumb two weeks ago.
There’s a chance Langford could slip to the 18th pick in the first round, where the Pacers pick. It could make for an interesting decision for the Pacers as to whether or not to take the home-state product. At the Pacers' season-ending press conference last month, president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said the team was in need of more players who can create offense off the dribble. Langford fits that bill.
However, it’s looking more likely Langford won’t be around by the time the Pacers pick. Yahoo Sports is reporting the Miami Heat have strong interest in Langford with the 13th pick, while ESPN.com’s Jonathan Givony has Langford going 15th to the Detroit Pistons.
Langford will become the 77th player drafted in IU history when he gets picked Thursday night. IU senior forward Juwan Morgan has worked out for several NBA teams, including the Pacers, but is a longshot to get picked in the second round. Morgan, though, will likely get an invite to join an NBA summer league team as a free agent.
The 6-1 Edwards has worked out for several NBA teams, including the Pacers, since declaring for the NBA Draft following his stellar junior season. Edwards shined brightest in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 34.8 points while making a tournament-record 28 3-pointers to lead the Boilermakers on a run to their first Elite Eight appearance since 2000.
Overall, Edwards led the Big Ten and finished ninth in the country in scoring at 24.3 points per game.
Edwards doesn’t possess ideal size for an NBA shooting guard but has shown a willingness to sell himself as a combo guard capable of running the point during some stretches.
The website NBADraft.net projects Edwards to get picked 32nd overall, the second pick in the second round, to the Phoenix Suns. If Edwards is picked, he’ll become the 50th player drafted in Purdue history and the eighth drafted under current head coach Matt Painter.
The Pacers have been projected to take a number of players with the 18th pick, including 7-2 Oregon center Bol Bol, 6-10 Maryland center Bruno Fernando, 6-6 Kentucky guard Tyler Herro, 6-8 Gonzaga power forward Brandon Clarke and 6-5 Virginia Tech shooting guard Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Pritchard said last month he would not rule out trading up or down in the draft depending on what offers come his way.
Pacers director of player personnel Ryan Carr said it’s unlikely the team will land an impact player with the 18th pick, though sometimes hidden gems can be found outside of the draft lottery. In 2011, the Pacers took Kawhi Leonard with 15th overall pick but packaged him in a trade with two other players to the San Antonio Spurs for veteran guard George Hill.
“With the 18th pick this year, I don’t think that’s going to be somebody that starts for us or maybe not get a whole ton in the rotation,” Carr said. “But it will be hopefully somebody down the road that will be a key piece to what we are doing. You don’t necessarily draft for next year in mind. You try to figure out who in the long run is going to be the best player, and hopefully it works out that way.”