Round 2 is the uneventful part of the draft, where the majority of picks amount to little or nothing. But sometimes teams uncover solidly useful players such as Chandler Parsons, Isaiah Thomas, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver, Danny Green, Omer Asik, etc. The goal of drafting in round 2 should be to draft a starting caliber player such as the aforementioned names. It is more likely that you can find a fringe bench player such as Chris Duhon, but those types offer little value since they can always be acquired with the veteran’s minimum. Bearing that in mind, I’d like to review some of the highly rated players that I’d pass on and the unheralded players who I’d target instead:
Do Not Draft: CJ Wilcox (#32 ESPN, #35 DX)
I have no problems with Wilcox’s game, as he is a solidly good college player without any glaring warts. But the underlying logic to rate him as a fringe 1st round prospect is so backwards that the thought of him going round 1 is somewhat grating to me. CJ Wilcox is a good shooter, as he shot 39% from 3’s and 87% from FT as a senior. He also has average size and athleticism for an NBA SG. If you were required to trot out a round 2 prospect for bench minutes in 2014-15 season and hope he does not submarine your 2nd unit, Wilcox would not a bad pick. But that is the opposite of the correct goal for drafting in round 2, as teams are not required to play their 2nd rounders. And unless he was woefully misused in his 4 years at Washington, he is drawing dead to become a starting caliber SG. He turns 24 in December and his skills outside of shooting are largely underdeveloped. As a senior, he was roughly the same player he was as a freshmen and is not much of a handler, passer, rebounder, or defender. Considering his age, it is exceptionally unlikely that he develops his non-shooting skills to NBA levels of competence, and it’s not like he’s a Kyle Korver or JJ Redick level shooter. His upside is roughly Willie Green, the poster child for replacement level SG.
Instead Draft: Isaiah Sykes (unranked ESPN, unranked DX)
Sykes is the inverse Wilcox, in that he’s good at everything except shooting. This was roughly Chandler Parsons’s appeal: he was a good handler, passer, rebounder, and finisher and then when his shot developed better than expected he quickly became a solid starter. Sykes is 6’5 with a 6’11 wingspan and exceptional athleticism, and he offers defensive upside that Parsons lacked. He racked up a solid steal rate in his final 2 seasons at Central Florida, and could be effective on this end playing for an NBA coach. Also he is a good rebounder, ball handler, and passer, and his shot is not completely hopeless as he shot 34 for 103 (33%) from 3 for his college career, improving his 3p% each season. The downside is that he shot poorly from the FT line (54% as a senior 56% overall) and was generally an inefficient and turnover prone player in his large offensive workload. He turns 23 in December which gives him limited time to improve his shot, but his shooting splits are not too different from Parsons who was similarly bad at FT’s and merely took a higher volume of 3’s. If his shot can take a mini-leap and he lands with an NBA coach who gives his game a nice haircut, he has enough positive qualities to become a solidly good cog in any NBA unit.
Do Not Draft: Jahii Carson (#38 ESPN, #42 DX)
Why is this guy a prospect? He’s explosive, but he’s also diminutive at 5’11 and not exceptionally skilled. He’s a solid but not great shooter and passer, and he struggles to finish inside amongst the trees in college. He also is a near lock to be woefully bad on defense given his size and the fact that he did not accrue many steals to help atone for this. He has developed a reputation as a selfish player and he is old for a sophomore as he turns 22 in August. There is little to like and oh so much to dislike.
Instead Draft: Kendrick Perry (unranked ESPN, unranked DX)
Perry is also diminutive, as he recently measured 5’11.75 in shoes and 169 pounds at Portsmouth. But he atones with exceptional explosiveness and length with a 6’6 wingspan. Even though he’s a senior, he’s actually 4 months younger than Carson. And while he shares Jahii’s burst with similar shooting and passing abilities, he is also better at everything else. He’s a better finisher, rebounder, defender, and superior at protecting the ball. He completely and utterly outclasses Carson in every way conceivable, and the fact that Jahii is on draft radar and Perry isn’t speaks to the inefficiency of consensus prospect rankings.
Do Not Draft: Cleanthony Early (#24 ESPN, #27 DX)
Well, this hype train sure got out of hand in a hurry. I rather like Early as a college player, but considering him in round 1 is a hilarious overreaction to a well timed career game vs. Kentucky in the tournament. Early appeared incapable of ever missing a jump shot vs UK, but you can trust me on this one: he sometimes missed shots in his other games. He has solid size and good athleticism for a SF, but really what else is there? He’s a solid but not exceptional shooter, and his finishing will struggle to translate when he is facing NBA competition rather than undersized Missouri Valley Conference bigs. While his athleticism enables him to average 1 block per game, he projects to be a liability on defense overall. And most troubling is this blurb from DX:
“The only small forwards drafted with a lower assist percentage in our database spanning back to 2001 (who played over 20 minutes per game in that college season) are Lazar Hayward, Al Thornton, Shabazz Muhammad, Dahntay Jones, Deshaun Thomas, Bobby Jones, Damion James and Maurice Ager”
Yikes, that is a frighteningly worthless collection of players. And to make matters worse, Early’s pitiful assist rate came at age 22 (he turned 23 last week), and he should have learned to sometimes pass by now. This calls his feel for the game into question, and it’s difficult to envision him becoming useful vs. NBA competition.
Draft Instead: Javon McCrea (unranked ESPN, unranked DX)
These stats are from each player’s final season of college, and McCrea will only be 3 months older as of draft night.
Millsap played a tougher schedule and is clearly the superior prospect with his advantages in rebounding and steals. But McCrea’s assist advantage is not to be scoffed at, as assist rates correlate with feel for the game. But falling short of Millsap’s goodness is not a bad thing, as he was woefully undervalued sliding to 47th overall in the 2006 draft. More importantly, Millsap proves that undersized mid-major bullies do not necessarily flop in the pros. McCrea’s assist and steal rates offer hope that he has the feel and length to become something in the NBA. It will be interesting to see how he measures out pre-draft, because he offers intrigue as a 2nd round flier based on his stat stuffing and parallels to Millsap.
Do Not Draft: Rodney Hood (#21 ESPN #23 DX)
I have been bashing Hood all season, and finally DX and ESPN are starting to catch up as they no longer have him as a top 20 pick. Nevertheless, he should never get picked in round 1 and I do not find him to be particularly compelling in round 2 either. His only positive tool is that he has solid height for an NBA SF, and even that is in part due to his long neck. He has subpar strength, length, quicks, and athleticism. And to make matters worse, he has awful instincts defensively and doesn’t seem interested in working hard on this end either. He projects to be somewhere on the scale of worst all time defender to a clear liability. What does he bring offensively to offset this? He’s a good shooter and a solid passer with decent feel for the (offensive aspect of the) game. That is all. He doesn’t rebound and isn’t much of ball handler or finisher. It’s difficult to envision his offense amounting to enough to make his defense worth stomaching. When at age 21 you are just the 6th best player on a team that cannot win a single tourney game, it may be a sign you aren’t going to excel in the NBA.
(Side note: as an avid Duke watcher my player ratings this past season are: Amile > Jabari >> Cook > Dawkins > Sulaimon > Hood. Amile is the Amir Johnson of college: he goes unnoticed due to low scoring totals but makes a ton of good plays, not many bad ones, and has an overall surprisingly positive impact.)
Draft Instead: Artem Klimenko (unranked ESPN, #35 DX)
Klimenko is a complete and utter mystery box, which makes him a great player to target in round 2. He is 7’1 with a 7’4 wingspan and good mobility, but at age 20 he has yet to face any level of challenging competition. According to DX he is averaging 15 points in 24 minutes on 57% inside the arc against weak Russian competition. This means little for his NBA projection, but at least he’s dominating the dregs like he should. Also he shoots 74% from the line, which offers hope that he has some semblance of skill. The primary question is whether he has the instincts and intelligence to maximize his physical tools and become a useful NBA defensive player, which is where he has the most potential. If he does, then perhaps whoever gambles on him will acquire an Omer Asik level steal. If not, at least you didn’t waste your pick on a player who has already strongly suggested that he lacks upside. Teams can glean more regarding how worthwhile of a gamble Klimenko is via interviews and workouts. But as a general concept: young, toolsy internationals with fuzzy translation are good targets as the talent on the board thins. Giannis Antetokoumpo going 15th overall last year is a good example of this.
The players I listed as solid round 2 targets are some ultra deep sleepers, and it’s reasonably likely that all of them amount to nothing. The vast majority of players who ever may amount to anything are already on DX/ESPN’s radar at this stage, and the best 2nd round picks will likely be players who are already on the radar and slide too far. For instance: Spencer Dinwiddie (#42 ESPN/#49 DX) has become a bit of a forgotten man after his ACL injury. But he still may declare nevertheless, and he may slide to round 2 and then become a Korver/Green level role playing wing. Jarnell Stokes (#28 ESPN, #49 DX) also may make for a valuable role player with his unique combination of speed, strength, and skill. But these players also may go in round 1 and the players that *should* merit 1st round consideration often make for the best 2nd round picks.
Since it is difficult to anticipate precisely where everybody will land when the draft actually happens, I constrained myself to scraping the barrel for this exercise. So take this as a demonstration of my logic for uncovering diamonds in the rough as opposed to my list of favorite round 2 sleepers, as it will ultimately be the Dinwiddie/Stokes type sliders who are the slickest steals.