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NBA Daily: Projected Late-Round Gems Are Worth Targeting

As draft night fast approaches, there are three upperclassmen that franchises should target with a late-round selection, writes Ben Nadeau.

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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.

Ben Nadeau is a Seattle-based writer in his third year with Basketball Insiders. For five seasons, he covered the Brooklyn Nets for The Brooklyn Game.

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