Surprisingly, the NBA Draft went according to plan – for the most part at least. Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, and Joel Embiid were widely considered the top three prospects in this year’s class, and they ended up being the first three players to hear their names called by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver.
First-round picks are supposed to make immediate impacts on their new teams. Cleveland is hoping Wiggins can develop into the second coming of LeBron James, the Jazz are hoping Dante Exum really is a mix of Rajon Rondo and Russell Westbrook, and the Lakers expect Julius Randle to be a centerpiece of the team’s future. Those are the kind of expectations that come with being a first-round pick. The expectations for a second-round pick, though? Well, they aren’t nearly as lofty.
Second-round picks aren’t even guaranteed contracts after they’ve been drafted, but that doesn’t mean they can’t end up being valuable assets.
Going as far back as 1976, players like Alex English, Dennis Rodman, and Willis Reed were all second-round selections. Since the turn of the century, All-Stars such as Manu Gilobili, Gilbert Arenas, and Marc Gasol were selected after the first round, and the list doesn’t stop there. Paul Millsap, Chandler Parsons and Monta Ellis all fell out of the first round, but went on to have successful NBA careers.
In the 2014 NBA Draft, a bunch of talented players fell out of the first round and were scooped up in the second round. Here’s a list of 10 second-round picks who will be able to make an immediate impact on their new team.
10. Markel Brown – Brooklyn Nets (Traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves) – No. 44
The Nets struggled to score at times during the 2013-2014 season. Brooklyn finished 21st in the league in points per game at just 98.5, but really struggled against the better defensive teams. In Brooklyn’s playoff series against Miami, the Nets broke the 100-point barrier once in five games.
Cue Markel Brown, the super-athletic shooting guard from Oklahoma State who lit up the scoreboard early and often last year for the Cowboys. Brown averaged 17.2 points per game against Big 12 competition last year and shot 38 percent from beyond the three-point line. Brown compared himself to OKC’s Russell Westbrook after being drafted, and while he likely won’t ever be as good as the Thunder’s All-Star guard, a player with that score-first mentality could add a big boost to Brooklyn’s bench.
9. Glenn Robinson III – Minnesota Timberwolves – No. 40
The Timberwolves didn’t have much trouble scoring last season, but it never hurts to add another offensive-minded perimeter player into the mix. Minnesota’s has a plethora of wings already, but none may offer as much upside as their second round pick Glenn Robinson III.
Robinson III already has an NBA body and game. He’s an elite athlete that thrives when attacking the rim. The best part? He’s actually ambidextrous and can finish above — or around — defenders with both hands. With Ricky Rubio running the point, expect to see Robinson III on the receiving end of a ton of alley-oops next year.
The Timberwolves struggled to stop team’s last season, but Robinson III has the physical abilities to become a plus-defender on the next level. It’s looking like Minnesota struck out on Shabazz Muhammad last year, but may have already found his successor in GRIII.
8. Spencer Dinwiddie – Detroit Pistons – No. 38
Spencer Dinwiddie was considered a first-round talent prior to the 2013-2014 college basketball season after tearing it up as a Sophomore for Colorado. A torn ACL cut his junior season short, but the Pistons may have gotten tremendous value here.
At 6-foot-6, Dinwiddie is an athletic combo guard who knows how to score. He’s best in the open court where he can use his length and athleticism to weave through the defense to the rim. Once he gets to the rim, he has a number of moves in his bag of tricks to evade shot blockers and finish the play. Before getting injured this season, he was shooting 41 percent from beyond the arc, something that will help him find minutes in Stan Van Gundy’s spread offense. Dinwiddie is a solid off-ball defender, too, something that’s not always so common with young players entering the league.
Rodney Stuckey is an unrestricted free agent, but the Pistons have already found his replacement in Dinwiddie — assuming he’s healthy.
7. Cameron Bairstow – Chicago Bulls – No. 49
The Bulls finished dead last in the NBA in scoring last year, and part of the reason for that was the team’s lack of floor spacing. For as good as Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are, neither is a real go-to post threat and Carlos Boozer’s game fell off the face of the arth down the stretch. The Bulls struggled to shoot from the perimeter, so there wasn’t much room to work with in the paint. Cameron Bairstow might not have the athleticism to excel in the NBA, but he might already be a more versatile offensive weapon than what the Bulls have down low.
Bairstow spent four years at New Mexico working on his offensive game, and it showed his senior season. In 34 games this year, Bairstow scored 694 points (20.4 per game) — more than double the amount he scored as a junior. Bairstow has a decent array of post moves, but he’s best making plays from the high post. From that area, he has the ability to consistently knock down a mid-range jumper or use his 250-pound frame to create space for himself. Chicago bought out 2011 first-round pick Nikola Mirotic’s rights from Real Madrid, and he’s a perimeter oriented big. He’ll help open up space with Chicago’s first team, while Bairstow’s ability to connect on mid-range shots will open up more space for someone else to operate on the block with the second unit.
6. DeAndre Daniels – Toronto Raptors – No. 37
The Raptors already have DeMar DeRozen and Terrence Ross on their roster, but having too many athletic wings is never a bad thing. DeAndre Daniels has the prototypical small-forward size and has a lot to offer on the offensive end of the court. Daniels used UConn’s National Championship run to bolster his draft stock, as he averaged 16 points and 7 boards in the six NCAA Tournament games.
Daniels is a sneaky good athlete who can score from inside and out.
His post game is a bit unconventional, but his 7-foot wingspan allows him to get shots off over defenders. The 6-foot-9 forward shot 42 percent from beyond the arc as a junior after shooting just 31 percent from the same range as a sophomore. If his jumper continues to improve, Daniels could become a really solid 3-and-D player for the Raptors.
5. Nick Johnson – Houston Rockets – No. 42
The Rockets owned the league’s second highest scoring attack last year, but that high-paced tempo came with a price. The Rockets gave up 103.1 points per game, ranking them 23rd in the league. Patrick Beverley is an elite on-ball defender, but James Harden, well he’s not nearly as good.
The addition of Nick Johnson doesn’t just give the Rockets another offensive weapon (16.2 PPG as a junior), but it gives them another solid on-ball defender to help slow down opposing teams. Johnson was one of the most athletic prospects in this entire class, and his combination of strength and lateral quickness should allow him to be an immediate contributor in Houston’s rotation. The Rockets’ bench needed a serious boost after their starting five contributed nearly 78 percent of their team’s points last year, and Johnson will be able to help on both ends of the court.
4. K.J. McDaniels – Philadelphia 76ers – No. 32
There’s no need to beat around the bush about it; the chances the 76ers are any good next year are somewhere between slim and none. Neither of the team’s top two picks – Joel Embiid & Dario Saric – will be in uniform to start the season and the returning roster features Michael Carter-Williams, Thaddeus Young and minimal talent at best. However, that doesn’t mean that one of Philadelphia’s five second-round picks can’t come in and help the team.
If any one of the five bottom-30 picks is going to make an immediate impact, it’s K.J. McDaniels. His offensive game is still a work in progress, but if the improvement in his game from his sophomore season to his junior season is any indication, McDaniels isn’t all that far away from being a reliable fourth or fifth scorer. The Clemson product averaged 17.1 points per game as a junior without a consistent jumper. If he can at least force defenders to play him honest, it’ll allow him to utilize his elite athleticism to score. McDaniels will immediately be a threat in the open court and with Michael Carter-Williams running the show, McDaniels will have his fair share of opportunities to throw down rim-rattling dunks in transition. At the very least, McDaniels can help the 76ers defensively from the get-go. Philadelphia finished dead last in the league in opponent’s points per game and McDaniels’ best asset right now is his defensive prowess.
3. Jordan Clarkson – Los Angeles Lakers (Traded from the Washington Wizards) – No. 46
The Lakers need playmakers all over the court, and they were able to snatch up one of the draft’s best in the middle of the second round with Jordan Clarkson. Steve Nash is the only guard currently on the Lakers’ roster, but that’s sure to change as free agency progresses. Either way, Clarkson has the ability to play both guard positions, whether it’s running the two alongside Nash or running the point himself.
Clarkson averaged 17.5 points per game in his lone season at Missouri after scoring 821 total points in the two previous seasons at Tulsa. Although he can handle the point, he’s a better scorer than he is a playmaker. He’s best at creating his own shot by attacking the rim, but his pull-up jumper is a major weapon, too. If he can connect on his perimeter shots more often, it’s not going to take long before he can become a real contributor to LA’s offense.
If the Lakers can’t lure another superstar to Los Angeles this summer, there’s a good chance the team will end up signing a bunch of players to one or two-year deals, which means Clarkson is going to get a chance to prove himself early on.
NBADraftNet compared Clarkson to Michael Carter-Williams, who is exactly the type of player the Lakers need to bring some excitement back to the Staples Center.
2. Jarnell Stokes – Memphis Grizzlies (Traded from Utah Jazz) – No. 35
The Grizzlies have arguably the toughest front-court duo in the NBA. Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph are two of the biggest players at their respective positions in the league, and are some of the last guys you’d ever want to run into in a dark alley. Memphis added another bruiser to its frontline with the acquisition of Jarnell Stokes, who was originally drafted by Utah but later traded to Memphis.
Despite having Gasol and Randolph roaming the paint, the Grizzlies finished 19th in the league last year in rebounds per game, snatching just 42.4 per year, and Stokes might be the best rebounder in the entire class. Even though he’s only listed at 6-foot-8, Stokes has a 7-1 wingspan, is ridiculously strong, and is a relentless beast on the glass. Stokes plays with the type of motor every coach wants his players to have, and he plays with a high basketball IQ. Memphis also finished 27th in the league last year in points per game (96.1), and Stokes is really difficult to stop around the rim.
The Grizzlies elected to not to extend a qualifying offer to forward Ed Davis at the start of free agency, meaning he’s more than likely on his way out of town. Without a clear cut third back-to-the-basket big on Memphis’ roster, don’t be surprised if Stokes ends up being the first big coach Dave Joerger calls off the bench relatively early in the season. This guy can contribute right away.
1. Cleanthony Early – New York Knicks – No. 34
The Knicks didn’t have a first-round pick in last week’s draft, but they ended up finding tremendous value early in the second round with Cleanthony Early. Carmelo Anthony is currently meeting with potential free agent suitors, but whether he returns or not, Early is going to make an impact for the Knicks right away.
After spending four seasons at Wichita State, Early was one of the most NBA-ready prospects in the entire class. His natural inclination to score and his athletic ability are two things that shouldn’t change on the next level — even as the competition increases. Early is a really good athlete with enough size and bulk to hold his ground against other NBA small forwards. He’s an efficient scorer, too, who knows how to get open; a skill too many people take for granted. Early connected on 37 percent of his three-point attempts this year, but made a staggering 58 percent of his two-point shots. With his ability to elevate and finish above defenders, his ability to spread the floor, and his ability to guard multiple positions on the defensive end of the court, Early has a chance to make a serious impact for the Knicks next year. 3-and-D wings are becoming more and more valuable as the tempo of NBA games continues to increase, and Anthony has all the makings to be a good 3-and-D player as a rookie.
Of all the second round picks right now, Cleanthony Early has the best chance to make a major impact on his team next year.
(Stats provided by sports-reference.com/cbb)
Which second-round pick will have the best NBA career?
Follow Mike on Twitter at @mlukes14.
Follow Dime on Twitter at @DimeMag.
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook HERE.