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Tracking Trajan Langdon’s Journey from the “Alaskan Assassin” to Wizards’ GM Candidate

What might Langdon’s leadership mean for the Wizards?

Raptors 905 v Long Island Nets Photo by Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images

The Washington Wizards need new blood and systemic change. It’s been over three weeks since Tommy Sheppard was relieved of his duties as President of the Washington Wizards. Since that time only a few candidate interviews have leaked. One of the first names mentioned was that of New Orleans Pelicans General Manager Trajan Langdon. He’s in his fourth year as General Manager of the Pels under EVP David Griffin, having joined the team in May of 2019. With such a rich resume on the court and off, let’s Tarantino this thing and time jump back to beginning before backtracking through Langdon’s front office work.

If you’re of a certain age then hearing the name Trajan Langdon conjures his alliterative nickname from his playing days, the Alaskan Assassin. As a player, Langdon was a McDonald’s and Parade All-American before playing 4 years at Duke. Selected 11th by the Cleveland Cavaliers in 1999, Langdon was at least decade too early for the NBA’s long range renaissance. A career 40 percent 3pt shooter with the Cavs, he was out of the NBA after 3 seasons.

Langdon enjoyed a fruitful career in international basketball, playing for Benetton Treviso, Efes Pilsen, and Dynamo Moscow before finishing with two EuroLeague Championships and a EuroLeague Final Four MVP with CSKA Moscow. His last season of pro ball was 2011.

In October of 2012 the San Antonio Spurs hired Langdon as an East Region Scout (and for a time he owned a home in Arlington, Virginia of all places). Earlier that same year former Spur forward Sean Marks joined the San Antonio front office as a basketball operations assistant and GM of the Austin Toros of the G League. TL spent 3 years learning the Spurs way and scouting to fit their systems.

In September of 2015 David Griffin and the Cavaliers came calling with a front office opportunity, an elevation from a regional scout. Specifically, TL:AA took the role of Director of Player Administration and Basketball Operations. Admittedly this was an intermediary role where he handled player ticket requests and anything else Griffin needed of him. It’s not uncommon in many industries to begin with a make-good position. Show you can excel handling seemingly low level tasks before moving up the ladder.

In this case, timing was not on Griffin’s side. In February of 2016 Spurs Assistant General Manager Sean Marks became GM of the Brooklyn Nets. Marks accepted the task of rebuilding the culture and foundation of the Nets following the Win Now years of Deron Williams, Joe Johnson, Kevin Garnett et al. Marks brought a mix of the Spurs culture and a modernized vision of training, expanded analytics, and increased mental health services for players. His first hire as GM of the Nets was not eventual head coach Kenny Atkinson. It was Trajan Langdon.

Langdon went to work as Assistant General Manager of the Nets and GM of the Long Island Nets of the G League. The mantra further out on Long Island was the same as Brooklyn’s, to be

“A united team driven by high character, competitive and talented people working unselfishly to achieve sustainable excellence.”

Brooklyn reset the culture and began to win without a big name. (Then Kevin Durant chose them and everything changed.)

Listen to any of Langdon’s media availability while with the Pels and you’ll hear this same mantra focusing on high character, almost verbatim. Listen to a few in a row and it lands that this is not the kind GM-speak Wizards fans are used to. It’s a foundational principle. You also notice how straightforward and monotone his delivery is. He’s not providing a performance or laying on the charm. Just a smart dude answering questions.

In 2018-19, his 3rd season as Long Island Nets GM, the team finished tied with the best record in the league. Langdon was named the G League Basketball Executive of the Year.

In April of 2019 Pelicans owner Gayle Benson interviewed six finalists for their opening, including Langdon. She went with David Griffin, formerly of the Cavaliers. One month later the Pelicans won the lottery to select Zion Williamson. A few days after winning the lottery Griffin made his first hire, his General Manager. You guessed it, Trajan Langdon.

Since joining the Pelicans the team of Griffin and Langdon have focused on positional size, length and elite measurables while building around shot creators like Brandon Ingram, Zion, and CJ McCollum.

2019 Rookies:

  • Zion Williamson (1st)
  • Jaxson Hayes (10th)
  • Nickeil Alexander-Walker (17th) Included in the package for CJ McCollum and Larry Nance Jr.

2020 Rookies:

  • Kira Lewis Jr (13th)
  • Naji Marshall (UDFA)

2021 Rookies:

  • Trey Murphy III (17th) Trade down from 10 to 17 netted Valanciunas and Devonte Graham.
  • Herb Jones (35th)
  • Jose Alvarado (UDFA)
  • 2022 Rookies:
  • Dyson Daniels (8th)
  • EJ Liddell (41st)
  • Dereon Seabron (UDFA) two way

Some trends stick out like the previously mentioned position size, length and measurables. They believe jumpshots can be refined. Look no further than the work of longtime New Orleans assistant and shot doctor Fred Vinson. Vinson’s work transformed Lonzo Ball from a 30-32 percent shooter into a 42 percent shooter in his last healthy season with the Bulls.

This methodology is not unlike the Spurs’ use of Chip Engelland, who Langdon knew from his days in Bexar County. Engelland just finished his first year as an assistant coach with the OKC Thunder, who are no stranger to betting on length and skill over immediate shooting efficiency.

Recapping what we know, Trajan Langdon, Milt Newton and possibly Scott Perry have spoken to Monumental Basketball leadership regarding “a” position in the front office. Reports assume these are all for the President of the Wizards. More on that below. We also know that the leadership team wants a shot at soon to be free agent, Bob Myers. Myers’ contract runs through June 30th. Shams Charania reported he has a long term extension offer in hand from Warriors ownership. While there was some initial smoke around conversations with the Timberwolves’ Tim Connelly, courtesy of David Aldridge, seemingly nothing has come from it.

Of course, the Wizards would jump at the chance to court Masai Ujiri too.

While we wait for Myers to decide on the Warrior’s offer, we’re left to ponder what the structure of the new Wizards front office might look like. Ted “Committee of Best Practices” Leonsis isn’t just looking for Team President. He has to rebuild the Wizards’ braintrust. After all, Sashi Brown was President of Monumental Basketball before leaving for the Ravens. Tommy Sheppard was President and GM of the Wizards. There’s no guarantee current personnel positions or scouts will be retained. So as much as this is about the man at the top, that decision will have ripple effects throughout the basketball operations department.

Monumental could be looking at a combination of these names to replace both Sashi and Tommy. It’s too early to know for certain but based on what he’s shown to date I hope Trajan Langdon is one of the new additions to Wizards’ leadership.