The 2014 NBA Playoffs are in full throttle right now, with teams fighting in their own Game of Thrones. However, for some teams, the winter came a bit early as their seasons finished with the conclusion of the regular season. The Tywin Lannisters and Robb Starks of the playoffs are fighting for Winterfell, while the lottery-bound teams are just fighting to be a part of the Night’s Watch. These teams that took the black are on the outside looking in, but the NBA Draft is right in front of them.
With the NBA Draft Lottery happening on May 20, tanking teams will finally have their questions answered. Was tanking a whole season worth it? Are Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker going to be wearing Lakers purple and gold or Sixers red, white and blue next season?
While a lot of the nostalgia will be from the first round of the draft, the second round also boasts some heavy hitters. Familiar NCAA names such as Russ Smith, Isaiah Austin, Keith Appling and James McAdoo will be selected in the second round, speaking to the depth of this draft. The big-boxed prizes will be taken within the first few selections, but there are plenty of stocking stuffers full of potential in the second round.
The second round is full of talent but let’s take a peak at 15 second-round prospects who could eventually make some noise in the NBA.
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Louisville didn’t reach the title game, however the electric play of Russ Smith made a statement that NBA GMs won’t be quick to forget. Before this season, Russ Smith had a reputation of being a loose cannon, similar to Russ Westbrook, but without the point guard instincts. Smith averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 29.3 minutes per game for Rick Pitino this season. Statistically, Russ Smith took a huge developmental leap from his junior to senior season. Smith’s field goal percentages went from 41 percent to 46 percent, and his three-point shooting increased from 33 percent to 39 percent. Adding a healthy dose of perimeter shooting, along with a knack for converting at the rim, makes Smith an all-around lethal player. Per Draftexpress.com, Smith made 50.4 percent of his shots at the rim this season, increased from 44.8 percent as a junior.
His impressive season season earned him First Team AP All-American honors and Smith was also a finalist for National Player of the Year. Those accolades are russdiculous, however, because of his small frame at 6-0 and 165 pounds, Smith isn’t projected to be drafted until the second round. Russ Smith is not a complete product–he’s a bit turnover prone and is lacking some essential point guard characteristics. But the development that Smith showed from his junior to senior season should have NBA GMs praying that Smith falls into their laps in the second round. Smith led the Cardinals to a National Championship in his junior season–he’s a proven winner.
The leap that he made during his final season in college should show that Russ Smith will only keep scaling upwards as the years progress. Russ Smith can be compared to another second-round pick in Maurice Cheeks, who was a 6-1, 180-pound point guard who was selected with the 36th pick in the second round in 1978. Cheeks played 15 NBA seasons, including winning an NBA championship with Philadelphia in 1983 while being one of the top defensive point guards of his time. This shows that draft selection means nothing in this league, as long as the player gets the opportunity to produce. Like Cheeks, Russ Smith is a ferocious on-ball defender, which will earn him minutes in any NBA backcourt.
Russ Smith will receive this opportunity and don’t be surprised if you come back to this article in a few years and find out why Smith was born to blow up in the NBA.
Isaiah Austin can literally stand amongst the trees–no seriously. Austin stands at 7-1, but has a 7-3 wingspan coupled with a 9-3 standing reach. The NBA Draft isn’t about measurements, however, it’s about production. Coming into Baylor, Isaiah Austin was locked to be a one-and-done and run to the NBA Draft last season. An off-season shoulder injury derailed those plans and Austin stayed for his sophomore season. With a 7-3 wingspan, Austin is a rim protector the moment he steps onto the court, which was proven by his Big 12 leading 119 blocked shots (3.1 BPG) this season. He scored 11.2 PPG and grabbed 5.5 RPG on 45 percent shooting from the field. Those numbers seem Roy Hibbert-like (not in a good way), but did you know that Austin is blind in one eye? Imagine trying to play basketball at a high level with only having 50 percent vision–Austin should be applauded for the work he puts in every night.
At 7-1, the potential is oozing out of Isaiah Austin. At 220 pounds, Austin will need to gain some weight (probably 20 pounds) to bang with the boulders in the NBA. Even at his height, Isaiah Austin had a reliable jump shot and can stretch opponents out as far as the three-point line. The ability of a center to drag a defender out to the three-point line is enough reason to have Austin on the court. It opens up spacing for the entire offense–isn’t it easier to penetrate when Roy Hibbert is on the perimeter? Austin has the ability to shoot, work in the post, block shots and towers over most opponents on the court, even in the NBA. The overall body of work wasn’t the best, but his potential and sharp flashes of brilliance makes Isaiah Austin a diamond in the rough in the second round. With the right amount of polish, this diamond in the rough could turn into something that resembles a former second-round pick named Marc Gasol.
Semaj Christon rose from the depths of a small school named Xavier, which only boasts around 4,000 undergraduate students. Xavier has turned successful products into the NBA such as David West and James Posey. Semaj Christon is looking to be the next success story from Xavier, hoping to turn a successful sophomore campaign into hearing his name called by Adam Silver during the 2014 NBA Draft.
Christon saw increases in his scoring and his shooting percentages in his sophomore season. Semaj Christon shot 48 percent from the floor and 39 percent from deep, improving from his 44 percent from the floor and 25 percent from deep marks from his freshman season. His scoring improved from 15.2 points to 17.0 points per game. Accolades? Christon is no slouch in that department, racking up 2013-2014 First Team All-Big East Conference selection honors and being named to the 2014 Big East All-Tournament Team. In short, Christon terrorized the Big East during his short stay at Xavier.
Semaj Christon is an aggressive guard that also has a pitbull mentality on the defensive side of the floor–his game reminds me of Kyle Lowry, who is flourishing with the Raptors. Christon led the Xavier Musketeers to a 21-13 record and a berth in the NCAA tournament. At his position, Christon has good size for a guard, standing at 6-3 with a wingspan of 6-6. His point guard skills need work, averaging 4.2 assists with 2.6 turnovers this season, but there’s always room for improvement. Christon can put the ball in the hoop, which is what this game is all about.
There will always be doubt about prospects coming from a small time school like Xavier. That’s fine, Christon has all the physical tools to be successful in the NBA. If your favorite NBA team picks Semaj Christon in the second round, just know the star potential is there and ready to be developed.
Jahii Carson’s stock took a meteoric plunge this season–I’ve never seen anything like it. Before the season began, the Sun Devils’ star appeared to be on the verge of being a late lottery pick in the first round of this year’s draft. Now, Carson will be lucky to get picked in the late second round. There isn’t any hype around Carson going into the draft after an up-and-down season with Arizona State. Carson averaged 18.6 points this season, but saw his field goal percentage dip down four points to 43 percent in his sophomore campaign. Carson’s assists dropped from 5.1 per game to 4.6, while his turnovers halted at 3.5 per game. Still, Carson shot 39 percent from downtown and had a true shooting percentage of 52 percent, while putting in 19.9 points per 40 minutes pace adjusted (per Draftexpress.com).
Standing at a mere 5-11, Carson has the ability to be a player that fits into a Nate Robinson mold. Not the most efficient player, but the heart of the player trumps the size in this case. There will be questions about his defensive ability because of his size, but Carson will do well honing in on the bulldog mentality that will make him a nightmare for opposing offenses.
Carson was the man at Arizona State. Without much talent around him there weren’t vital opportunities to flash his abilities as a point guard. His quickness and undeniable ability to score will earn him a draft selection, even if it’s in the second round. As we’ve harped on before, draft selection couldn’t be more meaningless if someone can ball. One of the most successful players that was under 6-0 was Calvin Murphy, who stood at 5-9. Murphy turned his second-round selection into a Hall of Fame career with averages of 17.9 points and 4.4 assists.
Jahii Carson will be given the opportunity to prove himself as a competent NBA player. While his efficiency went down overall, his three-point percentage rose to 39 percent. That’s an attribute opposing defenses will have to respect. Carson can make the defense play up on him, which will open up lanes to use his hurricane fast speed to propel to the rim. The potential is there and if he’s developed correctly, Carson might find himself on this list in the future.
James Michael McAdoo never lived up to the hype that was placed on his shoulders coming into UNC, similar to Harrison Barnes who was hailed as the next Michael Jordan. Same story, different player with McAdoo, who declared for the NBA Draft this season to avoid having his stock fall for a third consecutive season. Still, there was a reason why the hype around McAdoo was so powerful when he arrived on campus at Chapel Hill.
At 6-9 with a 7-1 wingspan, McAdoo has exceptional size and length for an NBA power forward. McAdoo didn’t live up to the hype while wearing Tar Heel blue, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t produce. His junior season produced numbers of 14.2 points and 6.8 rebounds, while shooting 46 percent from the field. The upside is there for McAdoo and the fact that he played three years at North Carolina should help (not hurt) his stock. Putting up 14 and seven over his sophomore and junior seasons in the ACC is no joke. Obviously, McAdoo didn’t set the world on fire, but his production was solid. Drafting James Michael McAdoo is all about upside, especially in the second round, which makes him a gem worth taking a risk on.
Prior to the NCAA tournament, Jarnell Stokes was a name that didn’t catch many eyes or ears in the basketball community. At 6-8, 260 pounds, Stokes is a player that evokes power and toughness when he steps on the court. He follows through with this, averaging 15.1 points and 10.6 rebounds for the Tennessee Volunteers this season. Fifteen and 10 in the second round? Please and thank you. Jarnell Stokes already had 19 double-doubles on the season going into the NCAA tournament. Stokes continued that success with three double-doubles in the NCAA tournament. March been over for a few weeks and the only name that is reminiscent in anyone’s mind is Shabazz Napier, however, Stokes took an 11-seeded Volunteers squad to the Sweet 16. The Volunteers would fall to Michigan by two points, but Stokes already did his damage.
In four NCAA tournament games this season, Stokes averaged 18 points and 12.8 rebounds, converting on 56 percent of his attempts. His performance in the tournament included monster performances against Iowa (18 points and 13 rebounds), Massachusetts (26 points and 14 rebounds) and Mercer (17 points and 18 rebounds). Numbers like that will put anyone in the national spotlight. Even with his monster performances, Stokes is still listed as a second-round pick in Draftexpress.com’s latest updated mock draft. Stokes had some words about his mock draft spot during the tournament (via Basketballinsiders.com):
“I think a lot of things are just media perception,” Stokes said. “I think when teams are able to see me in workouts, things will change. I think my measurements will be just fine, that I’ll measure well for a power forward. I think I can have success in the NBA. But I’m trying to win these ballgames and I’m not worrying about the NBA. If I started doing that, I may take, like, five jumpers just to prove that I can hit a jump shot (laughs). I’ve seen that from so many players, trying to do things they can’t do [or trying to showcase skills]. Sometimes it helps, more times it doesn’t. Hopefully I can show what I can do in workouts someday, whenever I decide to go, but I’m not focused on that right now.”
First round or second round, it really doesn’t matter for Stokes. He’s going to get drafted at some point and the potential to produce a nightly double-double is glaring. At 6-8, Stokes is undersized for the PF position, but that hasn’t been a problem for other players in the past. Carlos Boozer stands at 6-9 and 280 pounds, similar to Stokes. Why is this relevant? Boozer was the 35th pick in the second round of the 2002 Draft. Like Boozer, Stokes has showed a 12-to-15 foot jumper this season, which expands his game as a whole at the PF position. Boozer has averaged 16.6 points and 9.8 rebounds over his career, something that Stokes will try to recreate during his NBA tenure. One thing is certain, Jarnell Stokes is a steal in the second round and will be a bull in the paint when he hits the NBA.
Keith Appling is in rare air in the NCAA, as he stayed all four years at Michigan State. The one-and-done trend is scaling upwards as young athletes try to cash their NBA checks as fast as possible. Appling took his time to develop during his tenure at MSU, something that should be appreciated as he looks to take his career to the NBA.
Appling sits at 22 years old with over 100 games of collegiate experience under his belt. It’s easier to lead men at 22 with experience, than a 19-year-old that spent a single season in college. Appling won’t be an NBA star–he averaged 11.2 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 rebounds per game during his senior year at MSU after battling a nagging wrist injury that occurred in December. Appling choosing to play through this wrist injury might have hurt his chances in the NBA, as his health and confidence dropped off the scales. However, his abilities as a point guard shined even with an injury-plagued season.
The decline began about two months after the initial injury. Appling sat out the February 9 game vs. Penn State and missed the team’s next two games. Before the injury, Appling recorded 17 double-figure scoring games. After returning, Appling only scored in double-figures twice in 13 games and scored a total of ten points in four NCAA tournament appearances. Appling’s first half of the season had him in running for Big 10 Player of the Year–hopefully NBA teams remember this when considering drafting Appling. Every team needs a backup point guard, certainly one that is as serviceable as Appling is. At 6-2 with decent athleticism, he has the tools to play point guard in the NBA. According to Synergy Sports, Appling finished 60.6 percent of his attempts at the rim, demonstrating the ability to convert inside. Above all, Appling won’t make mistakes running an offense–a coach can trust Appling to do the right thing. Appling might never breakout in the NBA, but finding a competent backup point guard in the second round is a hidden gem in itself.
If an introduction is needed for Thanasis Antetokounmpo, aka the Greek Freak Part 2, then look no further. Thanasis Antetokounmpo is indeed the brother to Giannis Antetokounmpo, however, he is the older brother. Thanasis played for the Delaware 87ers of the NBA Development League this season. Thanasis pulled his name out of the 2013 NBA Draft, unlike his brother, and opted to play in the D-League for a season, rather than returning to Greece. Playing in front of NBA personnel night after night was the best decision Thanasis made, as he is now on the radar of NBA GMs for the 2014 Draft. Most mock drafts have Thanasis being selected towards the bottom of the second round. Trust me, this is an absolute steal. He stands at 6-7, but possesses the same athleticism as his brother–you know, the “jump out of the freaking gym” athleticism.
There’s no doubt that Thanasis is rough around the edges and being 22 years old, there isn’t much time for him to develop. However, after Dime first covered Thanasis, he seemed to experience a freakish leap in development. After that article was published, Thanasis averaged 17.1 points, 8.5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.5 blocks per game in the remaining 15 games for the 87ers. His season averages were 12 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.3 blocks per game. If NBA teams wanted to see development to make sure that Thanasis is the real deal like Giannis, then his final 15 games should prove that. Thanasis’ elite athleticism gives him the ability to stuff the stat sheet and stuff some basketballs in the hoop, too. The jumper is a work in progress, but Thanasis converted on 30.1 percent from deep and 47 percent from the field.
Thanasis is a hustle and energy player, he thrives off of big plays and usually has a hand in making them happen, too. All of these components make Thanasis Antetokounmpo, aka The Greak Freak Part 2, a diamond in the rough in the second round. I’m praying he lands on my favorite NBA team, as should you.
A former No. 1 prospect of his 2011 high school class being available in the second round is a steal in itself. LaQuinton Ross struggled to receive minutes playing for Ohio State during his first two seasons, averaging 3.9 mpg his freshman season and 16.9 mpg during his sophomore season. Ross averaged 29 minutes per game for his junior season and the production proved that he improved as his minutes scaled upwards. After averaging 8.3 points his sophomore season, Ross upped the anty to 15.2 points and 5.9 rebounds this season, hitting 45 percent of his shots. The OSU stud took advantage of his minutes, playing aggressive every time he stepped on the court.
At 6-8, 220 pounds, Ross has excellent size to play the small forward position in the NBA. Ross has drawn comparisons to a former OSU star in Deshaun Thomas, who was selected in last year’s draft with the 56th pick by the Spurs. Thomas spent this past season playing in France. Could Ross have more upside than Thomas? That remains to be seen. Ross can score and it’s always worth taking a chance on someone who was once revered as the top player in their HS class.
LaQuinton Ross’ production has increased every season he stayed at OSU, with his minutes increasing in the process. Who knows what could happen if Ross receives some valuable NBA minutes. It could be boom, or it could be bust. One team will find out.
Who? Unless you’re some kind of European basketball connoisseur than the name Artem Klimenko has probably never come across your eyes before. Klimenko is a towering presence at 7-1 with a 7-3 wingspan and a 9-4 standing reach. His standing reach is greater than Dwight Howard, Tyson Chandler and Nerlens Noel. In 25 games with Avtodor of the Russian Superleague, Klimenko averaged 14.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in 23.7 minutes per game. From watching some film on Klimenko, he runs the floor extremely well for being 7-1 and can beat opponents down the floor as they lazily jog down the court. Looks like he can go from coast-to-coast in a mere 10 or 12 steps.
Klimenko averaged less than a block per game with Avtodor, but he moves his feet ridiculously well for a man of his height. He’s a rim protector in the fact that his presence and quick feet makes people unable to even get to the rim. With these huge international prospects, there has to be some sort of skill-set on defense, especially for a 7-footer.
On the offensive end, Klimenko possesses very soft hands and is an above-average finisher at the rim. He can work well in the PnR–being 7-1 gives him that advantage to catch any pass thrown his way. Klimenko is always hounding near the rim and looking for that drop off pass for the easy deuce.
The worst case scenario for Klimenko is being brought off the bench in the NBA. He’s a 70-plus percent shooter from the line and has the ability to play tough-nosed defense. Having the luxury to pick up a legit 7-footer in the second round of the draft speaks to the depth this draft has. Artem Klimenko is an unknown name, but that height and size is something that isn’t seen in the NBA much these days. At the cost of a second-round pick, Klimenko is well worth the gamble.
Spencer Dinwiddie has first-round talent, he even believes it himself (via The Denver Post): “I’ve got first-round talent. If an NBA team has the confidence to give me the keys to the car (and contribute), they won’t regret it.”
So, why hasn’t the Colorado guard been mentioned in any recent mock drafts? Well, Dwinwiddie tore his ACL and meniscus during a January 12 game at Washington. The injury required reconstructive surgery and Dinwiddie admits that he won’t be ready for basketball activity until August. Still, teams shouldn’t be concerned about his ACL recovery; his doctor compared his recovery to Adrian Peterson’s: “He told me, ‘If Adrian Peterson is Secretariat (with his recovery), you are Seabiscuit,'” Dinwiddie said.
Drafting a player with the talent of Spencer Dinwiddie in the second round should have NBA GMs salivating. Before his injury, Dinwiddie was having a career-season at Colorado, posting 14.7 points on career-highs from every shooting category. Dinwiddie was shooting 47 percent from the field, 41 percent from deep and 86 percent from the free throw line. His career-highs in the shooting category speak to the type of production that Dinwiddie can produce in the NBA. A 6-6 two guard that can drop jumpers from anywhere on the court? I’m sold.
Spencer Dinwiddie coming out for the NBA Draft was a surprise considering his injury, but Dinwiddie considers himself NBA ready. He might turn out to be a project with his injury recovery, but this is a project worth investing in. Right?
“My thought is like this: Outside of the top five (picks), you don’t get lifetime money. Whether I go 25th or 35th, though I understand the differences in the contract could be $1 million or $2 million on the front end, if I start my career now, at the back end I could make that up easily.”
“So, it doesn’t really matter what I did, going to the NBA in this situation or next year. Either way, I’m going to have to win a job after that first contract.”
The potential in Damien Inglis is off-the-charts at 18 years old. A lot of these second-round prospects are 20 years or older, but Inglis is coming over from France at 18 years old. Inglis stands at 6-8 with a 7-3 wingspan and an 8-11 standing reach. He sounds like a typical international center prospect, right? Wrong, Inglis boasts these physical attributes at the small forward position, which make him an interesting defensive prospect at the least. Playing for Chorale de Roanne Basket of France this season, Inglis averaged 4.7 points and 3.5 rebounds in 15.0 minutes per game. This is all about future potential and Inglis has the attributes to be a force in the NBA.
Inglis will be a long-term projected if he’s selected in the second round, but who wouldn’t want an 18-year-old wing with a 7-3 wingspan? Imagine the problems he would create on the defensive end. His jumper needs work, but if he’s put in the right system, Inglis could flourish. Putting Inglis under the tutelage of someone like Gregg Popovich or Rick Carlisle and who knows what could happen. Those are two coaches that could tap the potential of this athletic freak. Inglis recently started for the World Team against the US Junior National Team at the Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon.
In three years, Inglis will only be 21 years old, making him a bargain full of upside in the second round.
Khem Birch might have turned into a first-round selection if he stayed at UNLV for his senior season, but this powerhouse decided he proved enough at UNLV to be drafted. Averages of 11.5 points, 10.2 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game are telling enough about Birch’s game. At worst, Birch will be able to run the floor, crash the boards on both ends and turn away a healthy amount of shots at the rim. Birch doesn’t boast much of an offensive game, but throwing him out on the floor as a hustle player could prove worthwhile as a second-round pick.
Every player on the court doesn’t need to post 15-20 points per game. In the NBA today, it’s more common for big men to find they’re scoring turning garbage into gold and crashing the boards with a relentless aggression. Birch can shine in the NBA in this role. There is some polish needed for Khem Kong, but in the second round, this is a great draft pick.
One word comes to mind when thinking of Patric Young…scary. Young averaged 11 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game for Florida this season as the Gators advanced to the Final Four. Young is undersized for the center position at 6-9, but a 7-1 wingspan and a powerful 250-pound frame make up for his lack of height. Young is a physical specimen, which makes him one of the best athletes in this draft. Like most center prospects these days, Young doesn’t offer much of a back-to-the-basket game, even though 94 percent of his attempts came near the basket (per Synergy Sports).
Patric Young is most effective in the P-n-R, cutting in the lane and operating in transition. Extremely durable, Young played in every game during his college career, which included 120 wins and three consecutive SEC championships. Young was also named SEC Defensive Player of the Year this season. Combining his athleticism, length and quickness make him a force on the defensive end of the floor.
In the NBA, Young can be a solid finisher around the rim and lethal in transition. His upside could just be a Kendrick Perkins or Joel Anthony, but there’s a reason those two players are STILL playing in the NBA. His energy, hustle and physical attributes will keep him in the NBA for a long time. At the cost of a second-round pick, Young could provide a career’s worth of production, even if most of it is Reggie Evans-like intimidation.
Would anyone else like the Pac 12 Player of the Year in the middle of the second round? That’s robbery for a player that averaged 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists this season for Arizona. Nick Johnson also shot 43 percent from the floor, 37 percent from deep and 78 percent from the line. His lack of height at 6-2 is hurting his NBA potential, as the league seems to be in love with 6-5 and taller prospects at the two guard position. However, Johnson was a consensus First Team All-American this season and proved that his games reaches taller than his height ever could.
Johnson was the main ballhandler for the Wildcats, as he was used in 26.3 percent of the team’s possessions (per Synergy Sports). Johnson only committed 1.7 turnovers per game, which is exceptional considering he was the focal point of Arizona’s offense. Scoring 1.055 points per possession in Arizona’s victories should speak to how important Johnson was to a team that made a trip to the Final Four this season (per Synergy Sports). The ability to grab the Pac 12 Player of the Year in the second round carries big value and one NBA team will take advantage of Nick Johnson’s skills in this draft.
Who else is a possible diamond in the rough?
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