Figuring Out the Second Round Part 3: The Underrated

Figuring Out the Second Round Part 3: The Underrated

(Note: If you read yesterday’s post you can skip to the players, this intro section is the same as Part 1)

My work on the second round of this year’s draft has already started by looking at the potential late first rounders, but there are still a lot of other guys with the chance to be drafted in the second round. Rankings across different sites vary more in the second round, and generally no one has any idea what they’re doing when it comes to second rounders. Since the overwhelming majority of second rounders don’t ever play meaningful NBA minutes, majorly diverging from consensus isn’t really a problem.

Looking at the major sites opinion of guys certainly has value, but since no one consistently guesses second rounders well, evaluating them based on other things than just traditional scouting would seem to hold an edge. In that vein, while I’ve made an effort to watch a ton of almost everyone who has a good chance of being drafted in the first, I rely much more on analytic models and looking at skill sets that more easily “fit” in the NBA to project which second rounders have the best chance of succeeding.

Basically, any one thing that stands out for a prospect is what sparks interest for them being a potential second round “steal.” It could be a particularly translatable or intriguing skill set, an impressive “eye test”, or a high performance in a draft model that causes me to think a player is worth a shot in the second round. On the other end of the spectrum, being particularly bad in any one of those three areas is generally enough to move a prospect significantly down unless they’re exceptional in other areas.

I’m breaking the second rounders into three groups; overrated, underrated, or properly rated. For determining over/underrated I’m comparing my own ranking purely to the DraftExpress ranking only because the instances where DraftExpress and ESPN vary widely would be confusing to deal with otherwise.

Underrated

Player-Team-Age (Draft Express Top-100 Rank, ESPN Top-100 Rank)

Arturas Gudaitis-Zalgiris-21.9 (DX 36, ESPN 82): Gudaitis is part of the international big men crop, and I don’t know why ESPN is so low on him. He’s a little undersized for a center and one of the older players in this class, but he’s very athletic vertically and laterally, profiling as both a rim protector and a lob threat in pick and roll. To go along with that he’s got good touch around the rim, a decent handle, a semblance of a mid-range J, and pretty decent production in the Euroleague (best non-NBA league in the world).

Like Mouhammadou Jaiteh, his IQ on the offensive end is pretty poor, but he offers a lot more upside as a rim protector due to his leaping so it’s easier to see him being playable on both ends. This draft has a weak late first and second round, so a player like Gudaitis, who has a decent blend of production, athleticism, and skill along with a role that translates to the NBA easily, provides good value to teams, even in the late first.

Draft Value: Late 1st/Early 2nd 25-34

Cliff Alexander-Kansas-19.5 (DX 42, ESPN 32): Cliff is the rare top-5 high school recruit who has somehow become underrated. He’s nowhere near the player he was billed to be, but there are real reasons for optimism surrounding his game. He has enough length to potentially guard both 4’s and 5’s, is a decent rim protector, has solid mobility, is a fierce finisher around the basket, rebounds the hell out of the ball, and has shown flashes of an intriguing jump shot. His awareness on both ends of the floor leaves a lot to be desired, but his strength and physical tools still allow him to be productive as an energy big on both ends. Even without a jump shot he could have a future as a backup-5, and if he continues to develop his shot he could be a solid backup at either forward spot.

Draft Value: Late 1st/Early 2nd (25-34)

Andrew Harrison-Kentucky-20.6 (DX 44, ESPN 44): Yes it’s another top-5 HS recruit who somehow has become underrated, and yes that was intentional. Andrew’s a really bad decision maker and can’t finish inside the paint at all, but I still think he can be successful at the NBA level. He uses his big frame well on the defensive end when locked in, and offensively has shown a lot of improvement hitting from outside. If he can rein in the decision making and really commit to defense he could be a solid 3-and-D mostly off-ball PG who actually provides a little extra handles and vision compared to guys like Beverly, Dellavedova, or Chalmers. Neither the defense or the shot is a guarantee, and the decision making could submarine him, but the path to a useful NBA player is pretty clear and achievable. In this weak second round, his clear path to success is worth something.

Draft Value: Early 2nd 31-41

Dakari Johnson-Kentucky-19.7 (DX 45, ESPN 31): It’s easy to see why Dakari Johnson won’t be a good NBA player. He’s not vertically athletic or laterally impressive, and he lacks the wingspan to make up for it, making him a likely poor defender at the NBA level. Additionally, he can’t shoot and he’s not overly skilled on the offensive end, with no real jump shot to space the defense and poor finishing around the basket. Still, Dakari has some intriguing skills that give him a bit of upside to go along with not being awful at any one thing.

He’s a fantastic offensive rebounder, he’s got a solid feel on the offensive end in general, and he’s elite at drawing free throws around the basket. It’s an odd amalgamation of skills, but thrown in with enough size and mobility to maybe be helpful on defense he very well could be a useful backup center. The chances of him being a solid defender who makes good decisions in pick and roll and kills the offensive boards are very real, and he looks like a good bet to find a role as a backup center somehow, a win for where he is likely to be drafted.

Draft Value: Late 1st/Early 2nd 28-38

J.P. Tokoto-North Carolina-21.7 (DX 46, ESPN 45): Tokoto is an athletic wing with good instincts who could potentially play high-level defense on positions 1-3 in the NBA, and offers some exciting stuff on the offensive end. He’s a strong ball handler for a wing, and he possesses great vision as a passer, though his decision-making can sometimes be shaky. The one huge flaw in his profile is his shooting, which has improved, but is still a major weakness anywhere outside of 15 feet. If he never turns into at least a 33% shooter from deep he probably will never succeed in the NBA, but if he does he has a very good shot at becoming a solid 2-way player who provides some extra creation and passing ability. His form isn’t completely broken, so an NBA team would be wise to gamble on him early in the second round with the hope he can turn his jump shot around.

Draft Value: Early 2nd 30-40

Aaron White-Iowa-22.7 (DX 49, ESPN 59): White’s a bit small for a 4 and has short arms that prevent him from being a good shot blocker or rebounder, but everything else about him is compelling. He’s a really high-level athlete with the quicks to contain smaller guys in pick and roll and switches, and the explosion to attack bigger guys on the offensive end and finish at the rim. He only shot 28% from 3 on his career, but if his 35.6% from his senior year can translate to the NBA he’s got a real chance to be a versatile stretch four. Off the bounce, he sees the floor well and he does a fantastic job initiating contact with opponents to draw fouls, making him a real “playmaking 4”.  If the shot isn’t there at the NBA level he probably won’t amount to anything due to his lack of interior presence, but if he can stretch defenses, make plays, and guard well on the perimeter he could be a very useful stretch 4 off the bench.

Draft Value: Early/Mid 2nd 36-46

Vince Hunter-UTEP-20.8 (DX 56, ESPN 38): Draft models love him because of the way he fills up the little categories of the stat sheet; offensive rebounding, steals, assists, and getting to the free throw line are all strengths of Hunter’s. However, it is easy to see why scouts are more bearish on him. He’s got classic 3 size but 4 game, lacking the jump shot or ballhandling to play on the perimeter, but standing less than 6’7 without shoes and only having a 6’11 wingspan. Still, Hunter has a better chance at succeeding at the 4 than meets the eye.

He’s an incredible athlete in almost every respect, and combines that athleticism with just fantastic basketball instincts which allowed him to have an insane 25.9 DRB%, suggesting he very well could bang inside as a 4 at the NBA. In that case, Hunter would profile as a non-rim protecting non-shooting 4, not a great situation. Hunter’s instincts allow him to contribute in so many ways thought, that he could still be effective despite those limitations. Hunter would have the versatility to switch all over the perimeter on defense, and would find ways to contribute on offense via his basketball IQ, passing ability, and offensive rebounding.

His stats indicate his great basketball instincts, but watching him as well it’s just apparent that he is a playmaker on both ends of the court, he just makes stuff happen. It’s hard to be more than a bit role player with his size and skill set, but his instincts give him the chance to be useful. His shot isn’t broken, so he does have the small possibility he develops an outside shot, which gives him upside as a very dangerous small-ball stretch 4. His awful tools and fit bring him down, but there is enough to like that Vince Hunter is deserving of an early second round pick.

Draft Value: Late 1st/Early 2nd 29-38

T.J. McConnell-Arizona-23.2 (DX 57, ESPN 69): McConnell’s size and athletic profile along with his age really put a damper on potential NBA success, standing only 6’2 in shoes with a 6’2 wingspan and generally below average athleticism. He has a really interesting statistical portfolio though that reveals a surprisingly good chance at an NBA future. Defensively he more than compensates for his frame with fantastic awareness and instincts, along with quick feet in isolation. Offensively he’s not a dynamic scorer, but he’s a heady decision maker and passer with a career 38% shot from three.

His profile gives a lot of optimism for him developing into a 3-and-D type point guard, if he can translate his college game to the NBA. The big translation questions are probably his shooting and defense. He only shot 32% from 3 as a senior and has pretty ugly mechanics, so it’s no guarantee he can be an effective NBA 3-point shooter. Additionally, despite his fantastic college defense anyone with his size and athleticism isn’t necessarily going to be able to defend well in the NBA. Still, both have those have a good enough shot at happening that McConnell is being underrated.

Draft Value: Early/Mid 2nd 38-48

Pat Connaughton-Notre Dame-22.4 (DX 58, ESPN 46): The argument for Connaughton succeeding in the NBA is pretty basic. He’s a fantastic athlete in all respects, and he can really shoot the ball. With adequate size for a wing player as well, he seemingly fits right into the mold of an ideal 3-and-D wing for the modern NBA. At a deeper level, there are real reasons for skepticism. He’s pretty limited off the dribble, lacking great ball handling or vision. Defensively, despite his athleticism he played essentially a super small-ball 4 role on Notre Dame’s 4-out team, and spent more time banging inside for rebounds than being a noticeable difference maker on the defensive end. From scouting he seems like a fine perimeter defender, but not the high-level one his athleticism would suggest. Still, guys with his combination of athleticism and shooting ability shouldn’t fall to the end of the second round, his path to success is just too simple for that type of draft stock.

Draft Value: Early/Mid 2nd 37-47

Larry Nance-Wyoming-22.4 (DX 64, ESPN 55): Nance isn’t a super exciting prospect in any one area, but he’s very well rounded without any glaring flaws. He’s got solid size for an NBA 4, above-average athleticism, fine college production, and generally above-average skill level. Defensively he uses his size and athleticism to be effective, and will at least be able to get by in the NBA. Offensively he’s a good finisher around the hoop, has pretty good passing vision and feel, and has a surprisingly good jumper despite shaky form, even stretching to the college three a little bit. Looking at his well-rounded portfolio I almost feel like I’m too low on him, but college seniors without one particularly good ability just aren’t that exciting. Not exciting doesn’t mean he can’t be a good value, and he certainly deserves to be drafted.

Draft Value: Mid/Late 2nd 41-51

Draft Model All-Stars

Branden Dawson-Michigan State-22.3 (DX 76, ESPN 58): My reasoning for liking Dawson is pretty simple. Layne’s model, and draft models in general, are high on him, seeing him as a late first rounder. He’s got small forward size and center skill, so it’s easy to see why teams aren’t optimistic about his success. That being said, his rebounding and defensive impact at the college level was outstanding, and at some point it’s worth taking a gamble on draft models kind of knowing stuff. His fit in the NBA would be iffy at best, but maybe he can find a way to be a versatile and effective defender off the bench who kills the offensive glass and helps a team in a bunch of little ways; a la Al-Farouq Aminu. If this were a stronger second round I’m not sure he would be draft worthy, but at a certain point in this draft there just isn’t very much interesting talent. At that point, he’s worth a gamble.

Draft Value: Late 2nd/Undrafted 51-Undrafted

Seth Tuttle-Northern Iowa-22.7 (DX 90, ESPN 79): Like Dawson I first looked further into his game because of great performance in draft models, and after watching more of him I’m actually fairly optimistic about his chance at NBA success. He’s got enough size to play the 4 in the NBA and maybe even the 5 in a super small lineup. He’s not a good athlete and won’t be a good defender in the NBA, but he’s got good enough defensive instincts that he might be at least playable defensively. Offensively he’s got legit three-point range, sees the floor outstandingly well for a big man, and can make some plays off the dribble. His athleticism is really shaky, but he’s got enough skill and feel for the game that he could make it as an off the bench type of stretch 4.

Draft Value: Mid 2nd 39-49

Wesley Saunders-Harvard-22.0 (DX 89, ESPN 65): Saunders isn’t elite in any one area, and his athleticism is below par, but he’s got a well-rounded game for a wing prospect, causing draft models to like him. He’s got good size and strength for a wing, and uses his strength and instincts to be a solid defender despite lacking great quickness. Offensively he’s a capable three-point shooter and a very good ball-handler who sees the floor well. Like Larry Nance, he’s just got a fairly complete skill set, and though his athleticism isn’t great, it’s not awful either. My guess is going to Harvard has caused him to be underrated because he has none of the usual obvious flaws like poor fit (Dawson), or awful athleticism (Tuttle), that would cause him to slide so far.

Draft Value: Mid/Late 2nd 45-55

Rayvonte Rice-Illinois-22.9 (DX 93, ESPN Unranked): He’s an old senior and is pretty undersized for a 2-guard, but in every other area he’s generally a positive. He’s got a really strong build and is definitely a good athlete who can really play D, at his height having clearly the best DRTG on his Illinois team is pretty impressive. On the other side of the court, he never shot >30% from three through his junior year, but this past year he shot 44% on over 100 attempts and 81% from the line.

His senior year numbers aren’t just good shooting, but great shooting. Off the dribble, he’s not a great creator, but he’s not a bad one either and his 8.6 TOV% is indicative of good decision making. Old age, being undersized, not being great off the dribble, and his poor shooting early in his college career are all weaknesses, but based on his senior year production he has a very real chance at turning into a solid 3-and-D wing.

Draft Value: Late 2nd 47-57

Briante Weber-VCU-22.4 (DX 94, ESPN 68): Weber is in a very similar situation to Rice, just for a point guard. He’s a senior, he’s a bit undersized for his position, and he struggled with his shot until his senior year when he shot over 40%. To go along with that, his senior year ended prematurely with a torn ACL that will hold him out till probably November or December of next year.

However, while Rice has a good defensive profile, Weber’s is simply out of this world. Playing in VCU’s trapping scheme gave Weber more opportunity to make plays, and Weber capitalized in an outstanding way; his 8.9 STL% from this season is a mind boggling number and he would’ve broken the NCAA steals record if not for his injury. He’s lightning quick and has incredible instincts that allow him to make some of the more amazing defensive plays I’ve ever seen.

His creation ability on offense is subpar for a point guard, but the inconsistency of his jump shot is probably a bigger question for his NBA success. If he recovers well from his injury and can get his jump shot consistent he absolutely has a role in the NBA as a 3-and-D type of point guard because his defense could be elite, even in the NBA.

Draft Value: Mid 2nd 40-50

Others: Ousmane Drame, Royce O’Neale, Ailun Guo, Guillem Vives, Kenneth Smith, Nenad Milijenovic, and Greg Whittington all look like potentially good second rounders based on draft models, but I unfortunately never made the time to watch their games. Without having watched any of them closely I can’t really comment, but probably at least one of them is deserving of hearing his name called, Vives and Guo look particularly enticing.

With that I’ve now officially written words about everyone either expected to be drafted or who I think should be drafted, I’ll have a few more posts up next week looking at this class as a whole, and also will unveil my full top-80 big board.

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