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Fantasy Basketball Second Round Rookie Sleepers

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? Speaking historically, the title of "Mr.Irrelevant" could just as easily be applied to each pick in the draft, as organizations differ greatly in their evaluation of talent and their own needs, particularly in a year without the NCAA tournament. The nickname just doesn't reflect how basketball works anymore. Executives strategically stockpile second-round draft picks for the less burdensome financial obligations, and organizations in down years get super creative to field a team on a budget. With the right situation, the right under-the-radar player can be an immediate breakout.

The last few seasons alone have seen scores of second-rounders and UDFAs who wasted no time in making a name for themselves, and the increasing prominence of the G-League and other alternative paths to the pros should only keep this trending upward.

We are going to discuss a handful of 2021 second-round picks and undrafted free agent signees who, given their individual skill set and circumstances, should be on the radar of Fantasy Basketball Managers heading into the season, starting today with the second-round picks.

Editor's Note: Our incredible team of writers received five total writing awards and 13 award nominations by the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, tops in the industry! Congrats to all the award winners and nominees including NBA Writer of the Year, Best NFL Series, MLB Series, PGA Writer and Player Notes writer of the year. Be sure to follow their analysis, rankings and advice all year long, and win big with RotoBaller! Read More!

 

 

Herbert Jones (SF, NOP, 35th Overall) 

As a two-time member of the SEC All-Defensive team and the 2020-2021 SEC Defensive and straight-up POY, Herbert Jones was custom-built to take on time early with this New Orleans Pelicans squad. The 6'8, 210-lb. forward didn't even see ample PT until his final two seasons at Alabama, a time in which he consistently excelled on defense but needed plenty of work on the other end. In his last season for the prominent Crimson Tide, Jones played 27.3 minutes per game, and in that time he averaged 11.2 points, 6.6 boards, 3.3 assists, 1.7 steals, and 1.1 blocks, while also hitting 71.3% from the line and converting on 20 of 57 three-point attempts (35.1%).

Every single figure just listed is a career-high mark for Jones, who shot just 14 of 61 from three (22.9%) and 141 of 257 from FT (54.9%) over his first three college campaigns. While NOLA has a decently thick crowd of guys who can play the two through four as FA kicks off, the wall is far from impenetrable, especially when you possess the athleticism, ability to learn quickly, and game-changing defense that Herbert Jones offers. The defense might get him on to the floor and it might even keep him there, but his burgeoning well-rounded skillset can contribute across the board if and when he gets his sniff.

 

Ayo Dosunmu (PG/SG, CHI, 38th Overall)

Making an early NCAA tournament exit as a #1 seed is always tough, but Ayo Dosunmu had a banner year for the Fighting Illini on his way to Consensus First Team All-America honors. While his slip to the second round might be surprising, it could be a textbook example of NBA franchises thinking a little too hard on scouting reports. In three NCAA seasons, Dosunmu's minutes and points per game averages climbed steadily from 31.3, 33.5, to 35.1, and from 13.8, 16.6, to 20.1, respectively; while also putting up 6.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 1.1 steal over his last go-round.

As his opportunities from the FT line improved, so did his shooting, going from 69.5% on 95 tries as a freshman to 75.5% on 102 tries, capped off by 78.3% shooting on his final 143 takes. He shot 79 for 240 from three over his first two seasons (32.9%), and while his volume ticked back a bit, he shot with much better consistency this past season to the tune of 32 of 82 (39%), netting career-best marks for true shooting rate (56.6%) and effective field goal rate (52.6%) along the way. Chicago's backcourt is getting more crowded by the minute, as Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso just signed big deals with the Bulls; but the surrounding cast isn't insurmountable for a player who has proven that he can improve against growing competition, and his experience in high-octane schemes could actually fit quite well alongside Chicago's cornucopia of energetic guards. If Ayo Dosunmu gets his shot early with a rebranding organization, he has a great chance of carving out an extended slot.

 

Jared Butler (PG/SG, UTA, 40th Overall)

A weird year for college basketball was finalized by a Baylor championship, which probably wouldn't have happened if not for NCAA Tournament MOP and Consensus First Team All-American Jared Butler. Butler was technically drafted by the Pelicans and then traded to the Jazz via the Grizzlies, so he's headed straight for the reigning Western Conference #1 seed to start his professional career. He was good for each of his three years under Coach Scott Drew and managed to consistently get better.

This past year, in 30.3 minutes per each of his 30 games played, Butler averaged 16.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists, and 2.0 steals. Butler's FT tendencies never changed much over three years, but he ultimately shot 194 for 248 (78.2%) over his career, and after going 60 of 171 (35.1%) from three as a freshman, Butler knocked down 77 from deep in each of his last two seasons for success rates of 38.1% and 41.6%. He kept his turnover numbers in check as his usage climbed and his assist rate jumped 7.8% from start to finish, his shooting only became more potent, and his steal rate went from 2.2% in 2018-19 to 3.7% on route to "One Shining Moment". He joins a Jazz team with a lot of returning pieces, but the nature of the roster allows for down-the-bench contributions, and Jared Butler's repertoire could be picture-perfect for working himself in early.

 

Luka Garza (PF/C, DET, 52nd Overall)

There was plenty of speculation that Luka Garza could go undrafted, but I guess being a two-time Big Ten POY, two-time Consensus All-American, and the 2021 Naismith/Wooden/AP POY carries some prestige worth rolling the dice on. Over his final two seasons (62 games) with Iowa, Garza averaged 23.9 points, 9.3 boards, and 1.7 blocks per game, shooting 83 for 209 from deep (39.7%) with career-highs in true shooting rate (62%) and effective field goal rate (59.6%) as a senior. The Pistons have young and talented guards, forwards, and combos in between, but with Mason Plumlee gone and the rest of the frontcourt specializing in other aspects of the game, the 6'11, 265-lb. Luka Garza could prove himself essential early for a Detroit club that ranked near the bottom of the NBA last season in three-pointers made and three-point percentage.

 

Charles Bassey (PF/C, PHI, 53rd Overall)

Charles Bassey out of Western Kentucky was a potential first-round talent that Philly picked up at the tail-end of the draft, and that value could pay early dividends depending on how the 76ers roster shakes out over the coming weeks. 6'11, 235-lb., with a stifling 7'3 wingspan, Bassey took home almost all of the hardware the C-USA had to offer in his two full seasons (RS in 2019-20). In 2020-21, Bassey played for 30.4 minutes in each of 28 games, averaging 17.6 points, 11.6 rebounds, and 3.1 blocks. He also shot 75.9% from FT (actually the lowest of his career), 65.2% from two-point range, and while his volume kicked up in 2021, he shot 27 for 79 from three (34.2%) in his first and third seasons. Reliable offense now from everywhere he's been asked to operate, 22.4% rebounding, and some of the best shot blocking in the whole 2021 talent pool means that Charles Bassey was already a name to watch, and he might be a name to cash in on early if Joel Embiid needs a break in the trenches.

 

Aaron Wiggins (SG/SF, OKC, 55th Overall)

Aaron Wiggins is a 6'6, 200-lb. combo wing who spent three years at Maryland before going to the Thunder in the late-second round, but with a 6'10 wingspan and 36-in. vertical leap, his game well exceeds his height and position (and I checked, he is NOT related to Andrew Wiggins). He gradually worked throughout his college career to add volume and then balance activity with efficiency, culminating in a 2020-21 season wherein which he averaged 14.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.1 steals in 33.0 minutes per game. His second year with the Terps was a down one offensively, but he bounced back with 61 of 79 FTs (77.2%), 57 of 160 from three (35.6%), and career-best marks of 55% (TS%) and 52.3% (eFG%). As his usage climbed from 18.9% to 25.4% from 2018 to 2021, his assist rate nearly tripled to 17.3% while his turnover rate held steady near 13%. His 2.1/1.6 split of offensive/defensive win shares demonstrates his versatility, and with phenomenal physical tools and improved shooting all over the floor, he paints a portrait of a player capable of contributing from the offset for an OKC squad aggressively searching for its identity. Though the ends of the rotation have strong barriers in the way, the Thunder love athletic combos, and Aaron Wiggins could slide into that slot early and often if some of the franchise's project prospects need extra prep time.

 

Honorable Mentions:

Isaiah Todd (WAS), Jeremiah Robinson-Earl (OKC), Jason Preston (LAC), Miles McBride (NYK), Neemias Queta (SAC), Isaiah Livers (DET), Kessler Edwards (BKN), David Johnson (TOR), Sharife Cooper (ATL), Sandro Mamukelashvili (MIL), Scottie Lewis (CHA).

 

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