INDIANAPOLIS — Romeo Langford wasn’t around by the time the Indiana Pacers picked 18th in the NBA Draft on Thursday night.
Instead, the Pacers turned overseas for a surprise first-round selection, taking 6-foot-11, 245-pound center Goga Bitadze of Sagarejo, Georgia.
Bitadze, who turns 20 on July 20, earned Adriatic League MVP honors for KK Buducnost in Montenego last season — averaging 14 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.7 blocks.
Pacers coach Nate McMillan said shortly after the pick he feels Bitadze will be capable of being a frontcourt rotation player next season with returning players Myles Turner and Damontas Sabonis.
“We’re not looking at him as a project,” McMillan said. “We feel like he’s ready to play.”
Langford, the former IU freshman phenom guard, went 14th overall to the Boston Celtics, the final pick in the NBA Draft lottery. The 6-4 Langford, who averaged a team-high 16.5 points despite playing most of the year with a right thumb injury, also was the first Big Ten player selected.
With Indiana basketball coach Archie Miller by his side, Langford celebrated in the NBA Draft green room in Brooklyn, N.Y., when his name was called. Langford is the 77th Indiana player drafted in school history.
A former New Albany standout and 2018 Indiana Mr. Baksetball, Langford will join an organization with Indiana ties. Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens led Butler to back-to-back national title games in 2010 and 2011, while Celtics forward Gordon Hayward also was an Indiana prep standout who played at Butler under Stevens.
The day began with the Pacers dealing, obtaining Phoenix Suns forward T.J. Warren and the 32nd pick in exchange for cash considerations. The deal, which won’t become official until July 6, will clear $21 million in salary cap space for the Suns — with the Pacers absorbing the final three years and $35 million of Warren’s contract.
The 6-8 Warren, who turns 26 on Sept. 5, projects as a combo forward with a high offensive upside. Warren averaged 18 points for the Suns last season, shooting 42.8 percent from 3-point range. But he’s had a history of foot and ankle problems. Warren appeared in just 43 games last season, sitting out most of the second half of the season with a bruised ankle, and has never appeared in more than 66 games in a season.