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Diamonds in the (Very) Rough: NBA Draft Sleepers Of The Second Round and Beyond

It's funny that every year at the NBA Draft, once the end of the guaranteed money and live appearances arrives at the end of the first round, everybody tunes out and refers to the 60th pick as "Mr.Irrelevant". That's not very accurate though, is it? If we're going off of pure history and volume of flops, the title of "Mr.Irrelevant" could just as easily be applied to each pick in the draft, as we can all agree that there is some level of chaos to what is seen in who when it comes time to draft new players each summer. It isn't even a solid understanding of how basketball works anymore. Teams specifically stockpile second-round draft picks for the less stringent financial obligations attached to prospects, and organizations in down years are continuously getting more creative to field a team on a budget. There are just too many opportunities to get your turn in the NBA. Seriously, you can be a newly minted college graduate who just went undrafted, and you could be in the starting lineup for the New York Knicks next week.

Given the right player and the right situation, these second-round selections and undrafted free agent signings can have a significant and immediate impact. We don't have to look far for poignant examples: Malcolm Brogdon, Draymond Green, Fred Vanvleet, Jordan Clarkson, Kent Bazemore, T.J. McConnell, Jeremy Lin, and Wesley Matthews, just to enter a few recent names into evidence.

We are going to discuss a handful of 2019 second-round draft picks and undrafted free agent signings (or hopeful ones) who, given their individual skill set and circumstances, should be on the radar of fantasy basketball managers going into the season.

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Second Round Knockouts

Nicolas Claxton (PF, BKN)

The Nets made a great pick early in the second round by grabbing 6-11 Georgia Bulldog Nicolas Claxton, and he could easily see time on the floor during his rookie season, even with the big plans that Brooklyn has in mind this off-season. The talented forward made big leaps in his game over his two-year college career, and averaged 13.0 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and an eye-catching 2.5 blocks in 31.6 minutes per contest, and also showed touch from beyond by hitting 26 of his 86 three-point attempts over his career in the SEC. With good hands on defense and the ability to stretch the floor, it is easy to see the Nets throwing Claxton in early as cheap and effective work off the bench with their eyes towards a roster shakeup.

Carsen Edwards (PG, BOS)

Boston has definitely gotten creative with their rookie acquisitions (I mean, they signed Tacko Fall), and Carsen Edwards was a finely polished prospect (who could've easily been taken in the first round) to walk away with early in round two. The Celtics are currently the front-runners to sign Kemba Walker, but it still looks like they are going to be needing help across the board this year, and the 200-lb Edwards is a prime candidate for quick scoring in reserve. In his final of three years at Purdue, he averaged a highly impressive 24.3 points with 1.3 steals per game, and he averaged 21.4 points per game while shooting 37.5% from long-range since the start of 2017 for the Boilermakers. This is a guy to watch early because his scoring ability commands playing time, and he can produce in considerable volume if given that opportunity.

Tremont Waters (PG, BOS)

While he certainly comes up on the small side and he has been a shaky three-point shooter since entering the college ranks, the performance of Tremont Waters while at LSU appeared to be a great fit for a Brad Stevens led squad. In 66 games for the Tigers over two seasons, Waters was remarkably consistent and averaged 15.6 points, 5.9 assists, and 2.5 steals through 32.7 minutes per contest in the ultra-athletic SEC. His cumulative body of work reads strikingly similar to that of Terry Rozier in his time at Louisville, and the Celtics were at least excited enough to use a late second round pick to get him in green. As it looks at the moment, there will be time available as a reserve-guard in Boston for the 2019-2020 season. While Carsen Edwards is going to be plenty of competition, Waters has many areas of skill that Edwards lacks, and can contribute to a more diverse range of statistical categories for fantasy basketball managers.

Kyle Guy (PG, SAC)

Kyle Guy has been the MVP of the ACC Tournament, Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA Tournament, and an NCAA Champion with the Virginia Cavaliers. Whether you believe in this or not, he is what people would define as a "winner", and is generally regarded as an intelligent and confident leader on the floor. Well, the Sacramento Kings don't do a lot of winning, but they'll surely get use out of Guy's elite shooting from three-point land. He averaged 15.4 points per game this past year for Tony Bennett's team on 42.6% shooting from three, and he knocked down a dead-eye 254 three-pointers out of 597 attempts over his college career (42.5%). He doesn't strike you as a scoring champion or collector of triple-doubles, but where there is wiggle-room in an NBA backcourt, there is room for a a player who hits nearly every other three he throws up. He's the kind of guy who is ready to provide some instant offense to his team from day one, if given the shot.

Miye Oni (SG, UTA)

Is it unfair to assume that Miye Oni has a high basketball IQ just because he went to Yale? Probably not, and no matter how rare it is for the Ivy League to send someone to the NBA, you can't ignore the talent that the Utah Jazz managed to pick up very late in the draft. At 6-6, Oni has solid size at guard coupled with encouraging athleticism that helped him average 17.1 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, and 1.3 blocks per game while shooting 37.1% on three-pointers. While you may be a little skeptical of Oni's performance given the level of competition in Ivy League basketball, it is encouraging to note that he steadily got better over his three years at Yale and improved across the statistical board, while maintaining a high volume of minutes and responsibility for the entirety of his NCAA career. As a player with a wide repertoire of ways to contribute and the physical attributes to hold up at the highest level of professional basketball, Miye Oni is the kind of explosive, quick-scoring wing that the Jazz love to deploy.


Honorable Mentions

Daniel Gafford (C, CHI)

Heavyweight Daniel Gafford weighs in at 233 for his 6-11 frame, and has tested as a more traditional force in the paint with excellent precision and skill over his two years of work with the Arkansas Razorbacks. There were a lot of imposing big men in the SEC this past year, and Gafford was still able to average 16.9 points (on 66% shooting from the field), 8.7 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks in just 28.7 minutes per game. He only saw 25.5 minutes on the floor each game while at Arkansas, but his cumulative 3.3 blocks per 40 minutes of play certainly speak to his ability to cause havoc and disrupt shots on defense better than a lot of centers in this class. That could help him find the floor in his charter season for the Chicago Bulls, who could be looking way thinner in the frontcourt by the end of free agency.

Admiral Schofield (SF, WAS)

Admiral Schofield entered the University of Tennessee as Bruce Banner, and left as the 6-6, 241-lb Hulk. With the physical transformation also brought about a steady, four-year emergence alongside teammate Grant Williams. In this past year for the Volunteers, Schofield produced 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds in 31.8 minutes per game, and he did it off of phenomenal long-range shooting (41.8% in 4.8 tries a contest). What may be even more impressive is that he improved his three-point volume and accuracy in each year of college basketball, and converted at a 40.5% clip over his 393 three-point attempts since the beginning of 2016. With his physique, the Washington Wizards should have no trepidation about deploying him to body up NBA opponents, and his ever burgeoning identity as a shooter make him a great candidate for success in a place where Otto Porter came into his own.

Jaylen Nowell (SF, MIN)

Though he would otherwise be undersized at 6-4 for the small forward position in the NBA, Jaylen Nowell really played a lot more like a guard over his two years with the Washington Huskies, and that's probably where he will make his living for the Minnesota Timberwolves. He was both consistent and well-rounded in the 70 games of his college career, and finished 2018-2019 campaign with averages of 16.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest. While this line reads only slightly better in comparison to that of his freshman year, there is one huge difference: he went from shooting 35.1% from three-point territory as a freshman to lighting it up as a sophomore to the tune of 51 makes in 116 shots (44%). The T-Wolves love to utilize sneaky bench scorers out of the backcourt (like Josh Okogie), and Jaylen Nowell could just as well fit the bill during his rookie season.


Taking the Scenic Route

Dedric Lawson (PF, GS)

Is there something significant that I am missing here with Dedric Lawson? The hefty 6-9 Kansas (formerly Memphis) forward led the Big 12 last season in scoring and rebounding with 19.4 points and 10.3 rebounds per game, while also averaging 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks with a 39.3% success rate on three-point shots. Those are performance measures that you think would warrant strong professional interest. On a Golden State roster that is about to look very different, I'm sure they can find a place to make him useful.

Zach Norvell Jr. (SG, LAL)

It is well known that the Los Angeles Lakers will be depending on some dirt-cheap minutes wherever they can get them to save money, and former Gonzaga Bulldog Zach Norvell Jr. could be getting the call early on. The Lakers called on players with similar pedigrees such as Alex Caruso in this past season to fill the gaps, and Norvell put up a well-rounded line of 14.9 points, 4.3 rebounds, 3.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game in his final season with the Zags while also shooting 37% from three for his collegiate career. LeBron and company may look for him to make contributions across the board in key reserve time.

John Konchar (SG, MEM)

The Memphis Grizzlies have almost entirely said goodbye to the old regime of mainstays, and Purdue-Fort Wayne Swiss Army Knife John Konchar has a real chance to be a part of the new one from the get-go. The 6-5 shooting guard put up a ridiculous line in his final season in Fort Wayne with 19.5 points, 8.5 rebounds, 5.4 assists, and 2.0 steals per game, while also shooting 41.6% from three-point range over his four-year career. With an organization in the thick of a rebuilding process, there is certainly room on the floor early in the season for a guy that can do everything.

Ethan Happ (PF, CHI)

Similar to the situation of Daniel Gafford, playing time could quite easily be up for grabs this season in the Chicago Bulls frontcourt, and Ethan Happ has the size and skill to make a strong first impression. The 6-10 power forward has been the head honcho for the Wisconsin Badgers over the past couple of years, and last year put up a widely versatile 17.3 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.1 steals, and 1.3 blocks per game. The only thing he seems unable to do at the moment is shoot from beyond the arc, but that is easy to deal with when Happ has the capability to contribute in areas where many other bigs can't. With the poise he developed in college, this is a player that could creep up on everybody and end up on the floor early in his rookie season.

Amir Hinton (PG, NYK)

Amir Hinton blew up the world of Division II basketball in his time with Lock Haven University and Shaw University, enough to garner the attention of the New York Knicks after the 2019 NBA Draft. The 6-5 guard from Philadelphia has an intriguing level of athleticism (not to mention, a pretty nasty highlight reel), and though he has struggled with his consistency from deep waters, he is nonetheless an absolutely destructive scorer with 29.4 points per game in his final season at Shaw. Just to sweeten the pot, he also averaged 4.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 2.4 steals per game that at least speak to his talent and physical abilities if you question the merit of his DII statistics. The Knicks may very well fail (we've seen it before) in their quest for big-name free agents this off-season, and even if they don't, there will likely be room off of the bench for Amir Hinton to show the fans at MSG why the organization signed him in the first place.

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