• Matt Esposito

The Makings of a Second Round Steal


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Identifying who will be a hidden gem in any given draft class is an NBA Twitter tradition. Fans everywhere revel in that one pinned tweet which boasts, “I told y’all that Fred VanVleet was gonna be a problem!” How can you get you accomplish the same feat? What should we be looking for in second round draft picks?

Firstly, adjust your expectations. Over the last five draft classes (2014-2018) only one second-round player, Nikola Jokic, has been named either an All-Star or All-NBA player. Sure, it is theoretically possible that the others could develop into a player of his caliber. As of now, however, the second-round picks covered in this timeline have largely excelled only as starting role players or bench extraordinaires.

Let’s take a look at some of these more notable second rounders. The 2014 class boasts two Brooklyn Nets in Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie. Harris is an elite perimeter shooter and led the league in 3-point percentage this season. Dinwiddie was once a projected late lottery talent who slipped from an ACL injury.

Also in this class are Jerami Grant and Nikola Jokic. Grant’s measurables and physical abilities are not only top tier but mesh perfectly with today’s modern defensive schemes. Jokic, an outstanding passer, can proudly boast that he has the best vision of any big man in the game.

This draft class presents three distinct guidelines for identify second-round steals. They must meet one of the following criteria. Candidates must:

1. Possess at least one elite skill

2. Have first-round talent & either injury, character or age concerns

3. Possess elite measurables

It may be wise to cover some other recent second rounders before I dive into what 2019 candidates meet this criterion. Montrezl Harrell has a top-notch motor. Pat Connaughton owns a legendary vertical. Normal Powell stands 6-foot-4 with an absurd 6-foot-11 wingspan.

Rookie of the Year winner Malcolm Brogdon was a senior at the time of his draft and also had foot injury concerns. Washington Wizards revival story Thomas Bryant owns a 7-foot-6 wingspan and a crazy standing reach. Monte Morris led the NCAA in assist to turnover ratio for three of his four college seasons. The New York Knicks’ Mitchell Robinson was arguably the most athletic center in last year’s class.

A point can be made that each of these players meets some criteria from our list. Now, which players in this year’s draft also qualify?

Tremont Waters

Having grown up a few minutes from my hometown, Waters’ work ethic is well known to local hoop heads. What is holding Waters back from being a surefire first round selection is about three inches of height. Yet, today’s game makes it easier than ever for skill to overcome physical limitations.

How can Waters meet our criteria? He is the best point guard defender in this draft. Waters was named the 2019 SEC Defensive Player of the Year and for good reason. Not only did he rack up 2.9 steals per game but, he constantly made life miserable for offensive initiators. A team looking for a backup point guard to control the offense and defensively disrupt opposing second units should draft Waters.

Sagaba Konate

A behemoth of a basketball player, Konate has been one of the premier shot-blockers in the country for the past three years. This year he swatted 2.8 shots per game and did so with authority.

Konate has also developed some nice shooting potential. hitting 81.3% of his free throws. What’s more, this season was his first year being a 3-point shooter, as he made 39.1% of them while taking 2.9 per game.

The one upper echelon skill he has, however, is rim protection. There is a definite role for Konate to carve out in the NBA. How often do we hear commentators and coaches complain about players getting easy looks at the rim when the starting big man has to sit? Konate could plug that hole while possibly spacing the floor.

Justin Wright-Foreman

Some general manager is going to take Wright-Foreman in this year’s draft and in return look very smart for doing so. How does JWF meet our criteria? He very well may challenge Coby White as the best scoring guard in this draft class, as the Hofstra product averaged 27.1 points per game on efficient percentages.

Wright-Foreman is the rare combination of a high volume and high percentage 3-point shooter. He took over seven triple attempts per game last season and nailed 42.5 percent of them! Plus, he gets to the line often and finishes well at the rim. The lefty gives some serious Isaiah Thomas vibes.

Quick Recap

I am not suggesting that Waters, Konate, and Wright-Foreman will all become All-Stars in the future. I am not even suggesting that they will become starters. What is more likely is that these players will play a bench role for their respective teams and bring good value to their second-round contracts.

Going forward, look for players that can hang their hat on one specific skill. Additionally, look for players that want to do this. Second-round picks find both success and professional longevity when they buy into the role their team sets out for them. Waters, Konate and Wright-Foreman can certainly do this.

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