The second round of the NBA Draft is always an exercise in annual insanity as players are stashed, traded and dumped, giving onlookers surprise selections around every corner. Understandably, the build-up to the draft tends to focus sharply on the lottery and those expected to make a major difference from their very first professional games. Still, the importance of finding late draft gems grows each year without question — look no further than the Toronto Raptors. Famously, the current conference champions don’t roster a single player selected in the lottery — Kawhi Leonard is their highest at No. 15 back in 2011 — but their collection of deep talent is astounding.
Marc Gasol and Danny Green were late-round gems, of course, but if you don’t want to count the recently-acquired assets, then there’s Kyle Lowry (first round, No. 24), O.G. Anunoby (first, No. 23), Serge Ibaka (first, No. 24), Jeremy Lin (undrafted), Fred VanVleet (undrafted), Norman Powell (second, No. 16) and Pascal Siakam (first, No. 27). Needless to say, becoming a Finals-worthy contender does not have to happen within the first ten picks or so any longer. But as draft night draws closer, it’s natural to start looking for value options with the potential for early success — in fact, plenty of franchises even pulled it off last year.
Between Rodions Kurucs and Mitchell Robinson, the state of New York certainly hit the jackpot in the previous draft. Beyond those two, Phoenix’s De’Anthony Melton, Oklahoma City’s Hamidou Diallo and Dallas’ Jalen Brunson also had strong moments throughout their first-ever campaigns. From 2017, plenty of second-rounders have already broken into the rotation, from Dillon Brooks and Semi Ojeleye to Jordan Bell and Monte Morris as well. The final three names there have all featured for teams with championship-bound aspirations too, proving — as writer Drew Maresca put it earlier this week — there’s talent to be found everywhere on draft night, not just the top.
Based solely on Basketball Insiders’ most recent Consensus Mock Draft, here are some projected second-rounders that every franchise should target on Jun. 20.
Eric Paschall, Villanova
Despite the Wildcats’ perceived down year in 2018-19, the senior absolutely bloomed as the main star. Over 36 contests, Paschall averaged 16.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.9 three-pointers per game, leading his suddenly less-stacked squad to 26 wins. Once chalked up as a late second-round selection, Paschall’s uber-athletism at May’s NBA Draft Combine got the attention of many front office scouts. At first, Paschall’s height as a forward, 6-foot-7, meant that he’d likely struggle to defend against the ideal pro-level opponent, but his immense wingspan and leaping abilities should help to level the playing field.
He’ll be 23 by the time his rookie season rolls around, but franchises should be falling all over themselves to get another prototypical Villanova prospect — unselfish, athletic and fundamentally sound. Physically, Paschall could hang with anybody under the hoop collegiately, but his potential as a long-range stretch option is where he’ll really shine. At just 34.8 percent from three, he wasn’t the most consistent threat but once he got cooking, good luck. On Nov. 23, Paschall erupted for 22 points on 6-for-10 from deep; three months later, he hit on 5-for-6 against Providence.
Many project Paschall as a perfect glue-and-energy asset — particularly as his defensive prowesses continue to develop — but in the right hands, it feels like he could burst through that ceiling as well.
Isaiah Roby, Nebraska
Standing at 6-foot-8 and boasting an impressive 7-foot-1 wingspan, there is much like about Isaiah Roby, the Cornhuskers’ standout star. Over three seasons, Roby used his size and high basketball IQ to become a flexible two-way asset and a defender of multiple positions — traits that should follow him to the NBA later this month. As a junior, Roby averaged 11.8 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists and 1.9 blocks per game. He, like Paschall, forecasts as a potential stretch four too, a commodity that now seems hard-woven into the current league-wide fabric. Although Roby hit on just 33 percent of his three-point attempts in 2018-19 — 40 percent the year prior, of note — the reward outweighs the risk here.
During a regular season win over Northwestern, Roby stuffed the box score for 19 points, 16 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a whopping five blocks. Months later, in the NIT opening round, Roby poured in 28 points and eight rebounds on an efficient 9-for-10 from the free throw line. Over 35 games with Nebraska, Roby finished with zero blocks on just six occasions, even notching two or more in 20 of those efforts. Undoubtedly, Roby is a raw prospect, but he exhibits the do-it-all ability that every franchise would love to drop into their rotation sooner rather than later. He’s a lengthy, two-way stopper that can force turnovers, protect the rim and swing the momentum of a game — if he finds any dependable mark from three-point land, Roby will be an NBA mainstay before long.
Admiral Schofield, Tennessee
The upperclassman run continues on with the Volunteers’ big-time playmaker, Admiral Schofield. At 22, he’s in a similar position as both Paschall and Roby — strong, if not massively spectacular, collegiate careers, but without the extra three years of mysterious, untapped potential that comes with drafting a teenager. Still, if a franchise is looking for a hardworking, defensive-minded contributor, it’d be hard to pass up on Schofield. The natural-born leader carried — with Grant Williams, another soon-to-be draftee — the school to their most successful season since 2007-08 by notching 16.5 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.
Given Schofield’s 6-foot-6 fame, his position at the NBA-level is still up for debate — but his shooting ability most certainly isn’t. Over his four years at Tennesse, Schofield improved from deep at every corner. As a senior, he nailed two three-pointers per game on 41.8 percent, an ever-so-sweet stroke that should translate with opportunity. While he likely doesn’t possess star potential, franchises will know exactly what they’re getting with Schofield from day one.
Aggressive and bruising, he treats every game like a playoff elimination moment and always ready to passionately fight for his teammates. But if his collegiate statistics and seasonal improvement weren’t quite enough, a quote from a recent workout with Utah just might do the trick, per Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune:
“My mindset is, if I come in, I want to affect winning. It’s not about positions, it’s not about playing time, it’s just about coming in and affecting winning.”
Yeah, Schofield is about to make some franchise really happy this summer, that’s for sure.
As always, the second round can be a minefield of missed potential but it has unearthed some incredible players as of late — including one Serbian-sized MVP candidate to boot. With contributors coming in all shapes, sizes, abilities and ages, there’s no excuse not to find a draftee worth investing in, whether that’s here at home or overseas.
And although these three are unlikely to go in the first round on June 20, that doesn’t mean they can’t make an impact, either now or sometime down the line. Just look at the Raptors, currently up 3-to-1 against the back-to-back champions, and how their once-overlooked rotations are now stealing the show at the absolute highest level.
It may not be immediate, but Paschall, Roby and Schofield embody the profiles of future NBA success stories — all that’s left now is to find them a new home.
NBA Daily: Is Stephen Curry the MVP?
Given the prolific season Stephen Curry is having, despite the Golden State Warriors being ninth in the Western Conference, does his impact make him the Most Valuable Player in the NBA this season?
In the aftermath of Klay Thompson suffering an Achilles tear that ended his season before it began, no one would have blamed Stephen Curry for prioritizing his preservation through the 2020-21 campaign.
Instead, despite the Golden State Warriors lacking the necessary talent to become a title contender, Curry’s doing everything in his power to get them into the playoffs.
The two-time league MVP is on pace to win the scoring title for the second time in his career. In a recent road loss against the Boston Celtics, Curry put up 47 points, becoming the second player in Warriors history to score 30 or more points in 10-straight games, joining Wilt Chamberlain.
In his last 11 contests, Curry’s averaging 40 points on shooting splits that aren’t supposed to be possible at the game’s highest level. Even though he’s hoisting 14.3 attempts from beyond the arc per game, he’s making them at a 49.7 percent clip. He’s taking 23.4 shots from the field but still seeing the ball go through the hoop 54.1 percent of the time.
The context of how Curry’s producing those prodigious numbers makes them even more impressive. He is the only scoring threat on Golden State who defenses need to concern themselves with — stop Curry, win the game; it’s that simple, at least in theory it is.
Another layer of what makes Curry’s prolific scoring so impressive is the energy he’s exerting to do so. According to NBA.com’s tracking data, Curry’s running 1.43 miles per game on offense, which is the sixth-most league-wide. And what that figure doesn’t fully capture is that while Curry has a lightning-quick release and is masterful at creating the sliver of daylight he needs to get his shot off, it takes a significant amount of energy to do that once, let alone throughout a game.
Even though Curry’s already the greatest shooter of all time, he’s taken the most lethal part of his game to new heights. From 2015 when the Warriors won their first NBA championship to 2019, a stretch in which they reached the finals every year, step-back threes accounted for just eight percent of Curry’s shooting profile from beyond the arc. But this season, Curry knew it would be more challenging to create shots for himself, which is why he’s doubled that figure to 16 percent and he’s knocking down 51.5 percent of his step-back threes, per NBA.com.
Curry’s also putting more pressure on opponents from further away from the hoop than he has in years past. According to NBA.com, from 2015 through 2019, five percent of his threes came from 30 to 40 feet. This season, shots from that distance account for 10 percent of his three-point attempts. Just like when defenses double team him out of a pick-and-roll, Curry forcing teams to defend him from further out is another way for him to create 4-3 opportunities for his teammates.
After that loss against the Celtics, Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Curry’s “at the peak of his powers.” Though he’s not just putting his talents towards individual production, he is the primary reason Golden State’s firmly in the play-in tournament. The Warriors currently reside ninth in the Western Conference. They’re one game behind the eighth-seeded Memphis Grizzlies and two back of the seventh-ranked Dallas Mavericks.
As impressive an individual season as Curry’s having and as vital as he’s been to his team’s success this season, the reality is the Warriors haven’t won at a high enough level for him to win Most Valuable Player honors for the third time in his career. Currently, Nikola Jokic is the leading MVP candidate. While it’s fair to point out the Denver Nuggets aren’t even in the top three in the Western Conference, Jokic ranks first in player efficiency rating, win shares, box plus/minus and value over replacement player. He’s averaging 26.4 points, 11.1 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 1.4 steals per game.
If Jokic misses enough of Denver’s remaining games, someone could usurp him for the right to win MVP. In that scenario, Curry would have a chance to become the NBA’s Most Valuable Player for a third time, but he’d have to sway voters from giving it to Joel Embiid. Embiid’s in the midst of a career season, ranking second in player efficiency rating, eighth in win shares and fourth in box plus/minus. He’s averaging 29.9 points, 11.2 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while leading the Philadelphia 76ers to the best record in the Eastern Conference.
Curry ranks sixth in player efficiency rating, seventh in win shares and is second in both box plus/minus and value over replacement player. He has a case for MVP, but Jokic and Embiid are capping off career seasons while leading their respective teams to a higher level of success. Yes, their teams are more talented and there probably isn’t enough weight put on how valuable an individual is to his team, but the reality is the MVP typically goes to the best player on a top team. Furthermore, that argument also applies to Jokic, who’s the lone All-Star on a team with a better record.
Not naming Curry this season’s Most Valuable Player doesn’t mean his prolific production isn’t appreciated. Nor should it get taken as a sign elevating his team, somehow finding ways to become a more dangerous shooter and investing as much energy as he has into a season that won’t end with a championship isn’t garnering respect from the NBA community. That includes fans whose favorite team doesn’t reside in the Bay Area.
NBA Daily: The Lakers’ Path Back to the NBA Finals
In the wake of Jamal Murray’s season-ending knee injury, Bobby Krivitsky examines the Los Angeles Lakers’ path back to the NBA Finals.
It’s been 15 games since a high ankle sprain sidelined LeBron James.
With the Western Conference standings congested and Anthony Davis already out due to a right calf strain and a re-aggravation of his right Achilles tendinosis, the Los Angeles Lakers faced the threat of a fall that would require their participation in the play-in tournament.
However, the Lakers have fought admirably in the absence of their two stars, going seven and eight. As a result, their fall in the standings has been painless, going from third at the time of James’ injury to now occupying fifth place in the West.
The primary reason the Lakers have been able to tread water without their two stars is they’ve remained stingy on defense. Since James’ injury, they have the fourth-best defensive rating in the league. That’s despite facing four teams who rank in the top five in offensive rating and six of the categories’ top-10 members.
Right now, the Lakers are 2.5 games ahead of the sixth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers, with a 4.5-game cushion between them and the Dallas Mavericks, who are seventh in the conference. That should be a large enough gap to keep Los Angeles out of the play-in tournament, but the two teams are going to converge for a two-game series starting Thursday. For the Lakers, getting swept would re-open the possibility of having to compete in the play-in tournament.
Fortunately for them, even splitting that series would make it unlikely the Mavericks finish ahead of the Lakers in the standings. And help might be on the way for the Lakers: Davis may soon rejoin the lineup, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, meaning there’s a distinct possibility he’s active for at least one of those two matchups. As for James, he’s on track to return in three weeks.
While Los Angeles’ stars are getting closer to making their returns, the Denver Nuggets got dealt a more severe blow when Jamal Murray tore his ACL in a recent game against the Golden State Warriors. Denver is 10-2 since acquiring Aaron Gordon at the trade deadline and looked the part of a legitimate title contender prior to Murray’s injury.
Denver is fourth in the West, 1.5 games ahead of Los Angeles. But even if the Nuggets have home-court advantage, they’re the preferable opening-round opponent, not just for Los Angeles, but any team with a legitimate chance at the fourth or fifth seed.
Fortunately for the Lakers, that’s the place in the Western Conference pecking order where they’re most likely to finish this season. So long as the Nuggets don’t freefall in Murray’s absence, Los Angeles will likely start the playoffs against an opponent that’s gone from having the potential to present the greatest challenge to the defending champions’ quest to get back to the Finals to becoming a desirable first-round matchup.
After that, the Lakers may have to get past the Utah Jazz and or the Los Angeles Clippers to make a return trip to the NBA Finals. The former has the best record in the league this season, but locking horns with the defending champions in a best of seven series is a far more challenging and potentially rewarding proving ground.
The Jazz have a deep, reliable rotation, they have the best net rating in the NBA, they’re in the top five in points for and against per 100 possessions, and they’re attempting the most threes per game, but also rank in the top five in three-point shooting percentage. However, the Lakers would have the two best players in a series against Utah. Usually, an opponent doesn’t overcome that disadvantage.
As for the Clippers, Rajon Rondo has quickly proven to be an impactful acquisition. Los Angeles is seven and one with him in the lineup, generating the highest net rating in the league during that span. Last season, the Lakers saw first-hand how impactful playoff Rondo can be. Now, the Clippers are hoping he can bring structure to their offense, something they sorely lacked last postseason and was at the forefront of them blowing a 3-1 series lead over the Nuggets. Doing so would go a long way towards maximizing the production of a team that has the talent to hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy for the first time in franchise history.
If this is the year the battle of LA takes place in the postseason, it figures to be a slugfest. Still, the Clippers have their doubters after last year’s meltdown in the playoffs. There’s also a large contingency who are skeptical about how far the Jazz can go in the postseason, given their lack of a top-tier superstar. Despite the validity of those concerns, both teams can beat the Lakers in a best of seven series. That no longer appears to be the case for the Nuggets, which is a shame for them and people who want to see the best possible matchups in the playoffs. But Murray’s injury, as unfortunate an occurrence as it is, makes it easier for the Lakers to get through the gauntlet that is the Western Conference and have a chance to claim an 18th championship, which would break their tie with the Boston Celtics for the most titles in NBA history.
NBA AM: The Play-In Game – West
With the season winding down, Ariel Pacheco takes a look at how the play-in tournament is shaping up in the Western Conference.
With the regular season’s end in sight, teams are making their last push to make the playoffs in what has been a condensed season. But the new play-in tournament is providing more teams than ever a chance at a coveted playoff spot.
Here is what the new play-in tournament will look like: Teams that finish with the Nos 7 and 8 seeds will face off against each other. The winner of this game will be No. 7. The Nos. 9 and 10 seeds will also play and the winner will play the loser of the first game. The winner of this game will be the No. 8 seed.
The play-in tournament provides intrigue and adds pressure on teams in both conferences to finish in the top six and avoid the play-in altogether. The Western Conference, in particular, is shaping up to have a rather exciting finish. There are a number of teams who could find themselves fighting for their playoff lives in this year’s tournament – all below in tiers.
Teams Likely To Avoid Play-In
Portland Trail Blazers (32-24)
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: 8
Games Against Teams Over .500: 12
Games Against West: 11
The Trail Blazers are currently the sixth seed in the West meaning, for now, they are safe from the play-in tournament. However, they are just two games above the Mavericks from possibly dropping down a place. They’re the team most likely to secure that sixth seed because they have more talent than the teams below them – hello, Dame – and they also have an elite offense. However, the defensive concerns are very real and if they were to slip, it would likely be because of their struggles on that side of the ball.
Likely Play-In Teams
Games Left: 16
Home Games Left: 9
Games Against Teams Over .500: 5
Games Against West: 8
On paper, the Mavs have a really easy schedule as the season winds down. They have just five games against teams over .500 and two against the Los Angeles Lakers, who may be without their two stars for those games. However, they are just 10-12 this season against sub .500 teams and are coming off a disappointing loss to the Sacramento Kings. There’s still a pretty good chance they get the sixth seed and avoid the play-in, but it also wouldn’t be surprising to see them in it as well.
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 7
Games Against Teams Over .500: 8
Games Against West: 12
The Grizzlies are often overlooked, but they are about as well-coached as any other team in the NBA. It is likely they will be in the play-in game, but don’t be surprised if they are able to sneak into the sixth seed. They lost last year’s play-in game in the Bubble to the Blazers, so they do have experience in this type of setting. They may be getting Jaren Jackson Jr. back soon which should help.
Golden State Warriors
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 9
Games Against Teams Over .500: 6
Games Against West: 13
The Warriors are getting just other-worldly performances from Stephen Curry on an almost nightly basis at this point. However, they continue to struggle to win games, in large part due to the struggles when he sits on the bench. Their schedule is pretty light to close the season, which bolsters their chances. The talent on this team isn’t great, but Curry’s play should be enough to get them in the play-in tournament.
San Antonio Spurs
Games Left: 17
Home Games Left: 6
Games Against Teams Over .500: 12
Games Against West: 7
The Spurs have struggled of late, especially after the All-Star break. Their defense has dropped off badly, but if there’s any reason to be positive, it’s that they are still coached by Gregg Popovich and their young guys continue to show improvement. They have been really good on the road this season and a majority of their games are on the road. It won’t be easy, but the Spurs should find themselves in the play-in tournament.
Outside Looking In
New Orleans Pelicans
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 6
Games Against Teams Over .500: 9
Games Against West: 11
The Pelicans have been hit with the injury bug of late, but their inconsistent play this season continues to be a huge problem. Their defense continues to bleed three-pointers and while point Zion Williamson has worked, there just isn’t enough shooting to maximize him just yet. It seems unlikely the Pelicans make a late-season run to the play-in game.
Games Left: 15
Home Games Left: 8
Games Against Teams Over .500: 8
Games Against West: 14
The Kings are the least likely team to make the play-in tournament. Their defense is still problematic and they just recently ended their 9-game losing streak. It’ll take a huge late-season push and the Kings just haven’t shown that they are capable of putting it all together for a long enough stretch.
The play-in tournament adds a new layer of competition that will bring excitement at the end of the season. Be sure to check out how the play-in tournament is shaping up in the Eastern Conference.
NBA2 weeks ago
NBA Daily: Get Familiar With the Phoenix Suns
Headlines2 weeks ago
Report: Patrick Beverley Out Three-to-Four Weeks with Left Hand Fracture
Headlines2 weeks ago
Sources: James Wiseman Expected to Miss Rest of Season with Torn Right Meniscus
NBA2 weeks ago
NBA PM: Don’t Forget The Milwaukee Bucks