NBA

NBA AM: The Gems Of The Second Round

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The Gems Of The Second Round?:  With training camp less than a month away for most NBA teams, young guys will get the chance to prove they belong. For second round draft picks, camp will be a brutal culture shock.

The 2014 NBA Draft produced some interesting wrinkles as many teams opted to spend first round picks on ‘draft and stash’ prospects or in Oklahoma City’s case with Josh Huestis to their D-League team.

This pushed a number of first round talents into the second round, and several of them could make an impact as a rookie, which would go a long way towards cementing their ability to have a NBA career.

Here are some of the most notable ones:

K. J. McDaniels – (32nd pick) – Philadelphia 76ers

McDaniels struggled during the draft workout process, which is why he slipped into the second round. He is a versatile player that plays very well on both ends. In Philly, McDaniels should get a chance to play some serious minutes and with his knack for rebounding and blocking shots he could become a fan favorite fairly quick. K.J’s biggest issue is his jump shot; when wide open he is capable from three, when contested he struggles. If he can overcome that this season, he could be one of the better value picks in the second round.

Cleanthony Early – (34th pick) – New York Knicks

A number of NBA teams weighed drafting Early in the first round, but his age and his competitive set put him towards the bottom of a number of team’s draft boards. For the Knicks, he is exactly what they needed: a floor spacing, cerebral player that should excel in the triangle. There isn’t a ton of competition for small forward minutes off the bench for the Knicks, so Early should get a chance to play. Given that the Knicks won’t expect a ton from him, he should have an opportunity to wow fans, as he is a ready to contribute type of guy.

Jarnell Stokes – (35th pick) – Memphis Grizzlies

The Grizzlies were prepared to take Stokes with their first round pick, and then Jordan Adams fell to them. The Grizz ended up with Stokes in the second round, but have guaranteed the first two years of his deal with real money, which should tell you what they think of him. He showed why they were so high on him by being extremely solid in summer play. The Grizz believe Stokes can be a solid back up to Zach Randolph at the four spot, and if Randolph gets hurt, they can plug him in as a starter. Stokes will have to prove he can handle that in camp and in preseason, but the Grizz really believe in him and that should go a long way towards his chances for success.

Glenn Robinson III – (40th pick) – Minnesota Timberwolves

Things are a little crowded in Minnesota these days, but Robinson really looked good in summer play and if he brings that same intensity to camp that he did in Vegas, it’s going to be hard for Wolves’ coach Flip Saunders to not find a spot and minutes for him. There is no doubt that he fell on draft night. Some players simply are not great workout players, but Robinson looks good on the floor. If that continues he might be a surprise, especially given he was the 40th pick.

Jordan Clarkson – (46th pick) – LA Lakers

Clarkson might be the steal of the draft at 46, mainly because the Lakers needed some talent at the point guard spot, and Clarkson could be that guy. Normally the 46th pick doesn’t play a lot if at all, but Clarkson should get a chance to get on the floor this season and that means he’ll have a chance to prove he can play. With a former combo guard as his head coach in Byron Scott, Clarkson should get the chance to learn and play that few guys in his position receive.

Russ Smith – (47th pick) – New Orleans Pelicans

Russ Smith was amazing in summer play, and the Pelicans have minutes for him at the point guard spot. Currently the point guards on the roster are Jrue Holiday and Jimmer Fredette. Eric Gordon could see minutes at the one, but the depth of the position is not great, which means Smith will get a chance. Like Clarkson, the 47th pick usually doesn’t get to play much, so Smith’s situation is fairly unique. Assuming he can win over his coaches, he could be playing major minutes by mid-season.

Devyn Marble – (56th pick) – Orlando Magic

Marble may or may not get a chance. He was solid in summer play and he looks like a player the Magic will give minutes to, especially in preseason. Given that the Magic want to compete this year it will be on Marble to make the most of his opportunity. The Magic value athleticism and perimeter shooting and Marble may offer both, which could get him minutes and an opportunity.

Harden Growing Up?:  Anyone who watched the Houston Rockets last year would admit that James Harden left a lot to be desired in how he handled his first season with Dwight Howard. He put up shots and scored a ton of points, but in the end there were many things Harden wasn’t.

It seems with Team USA getting ready to start the World Cup in Spain that Harden is using his time to become a more well-rounded player, earning a lot of praise from Team USA chairman Jerry Colangelo, who told Michael Lee of the Washington Post that Harden might be the leader of this USA squad.

“Right now, I think I would look to Harden as that leader,” Colangelo said. “Harden is kind of a natural leader and he seems to be willing to accept that role. And you can just kind of feel it and sense. He’s the one.

“I don’t know if he’s been waiting [to lead]. It’s evolved. He came in as a pretty high draft pick. Got off to a great start in Oklahoma City. Whether he was disappointed or surprised by what transpired, he found himself in another uniform and that’s part of life in pro sports and the NBA, and I think he’s adjusted to that and his numbers get bigger and he’s being recognized more and more as the player he is. And this is a great platform for him to come out as a leader.”

Harden points to the chaos he’s has endured the last few years as the reason for his ups and downs, but believes that he is starting to find his way.

“It’s so many things these last couple of years that’s been thrown at me, from me being traded, to people talking, just everything,” Harden said. “I try to focus on myself and how can I be a better basketball player. It’s still basketball at the end of the day. I try to do it to the best of my ability and continue to work hard.

“Every NBA player, even growing up, growing up youngins have dreams that they want to be the best basketball players in the world. As a basketball player, or any athlete, you got to have confidence; you’ve got to have confidence the whole time. You just go out there and do your job and have confidence that your abilities are good enough. Whatever is thrown at me, I just try to take it for what it is and just have fun.”

Getting walked out of the playoffs last season against Portland still doesn’t sit well with Harden, who wasn’t exactly his best in that series.

“I’m definitely motivated,” Harden said. “Everything is a learning experience for me. I’m trying to do my best to not let that happen again. I put that on myself, just playing bad and not really carrying the team like I needed to do.”

Harden says working with Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau has been great, especially with the defensive mindset he has installed in the USA team.

“First of all, you got the top players in the world on your team, so if you’re not focused and locked in on defense, they are going to embarrass you,” Harden said. “I think our coach has done a phenomenal job of making sure we’re keyed in. Thibodeau is phenomenal with that defensive presence, so all those things collectively is why I’m so locked in.

“This is a different platform. A platform that I haven’t really been on before, but I think most of us haven’t been on it, either. I think we’re all kind of figuring it out together. That’s what’s going to be so special about this team. We figure it out together and we come out with a gold medal, it makes it that much more special.”

Team USA begins pool play on Saturday August 30 at 3:30pm EST with an opening game against Finland. Team USA will play five Preliminary Round games before beginning Round of 16 play on Saturday September 6. The Quarterfinals begin on Tuesday September 9, with Finals set to be played on September 13 and 14.

The Next Big Thing:  As much hype as high schooler Thon Maker got this summer during his AAU tour, there is another guy that you should keep an eye on and that swing man Jaylen Brown. Basketball Insiders caught up with him in early August at Adidas Nations.


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About Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.