The difference between being drafted in the first or second round in the NBA is perhaps starker than any other major professional sports league.
For the first 30 names that come out of David Stern's mouth, their dreams have truly been realized. They are guaranteed at least 80 percent of the rookie wage scale set by the NBA's collective bargaining agreement, with most getting 120 percent of that figure. For most of these kids—heck, for almost everyone in the 99th percentile—it's life-changing money.
The next 30 picks, read by NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver, are in a far more precarious position. The collective bargaining agreement does not force teams to offer guaranteed money to second-round picks. While some at the top of the round are given partial guarantees, the remainder are living year-to-year or even week-to-week. They're in a constant state of proving themselves, being one questionable summer league game from seeing it all slip away.
That's why, perhaps more than anything, fit is so important in the second round. It carries weight in the first round as well, but at least if you're a bust within the first 30 picks, you're not walking away from the NBA with as much money as the guy who missed the $100 question on Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
And looking at the draft results in hindsight, it's easy to see a few players who might have found ideal situations. Here is a quick breakdown of the most notable names, highlighting why they're such good fits in their current spots.
Isaiah Canaan, PG, Murray State (No. 34, Houston Rockets)
Houston general manager Daryl Morey has become renowned for his ability to find value where few others can. His innate proficiency with landing assets other teams covet wound up as the main reason the Rockets landed James Harden, and Morey has had a ton of success with the draft picks the team kept. Royce White nightmares aside, of course.
Chandler Parsons, drafted in the second round by Houston two years ago, may be the most underpaid player in basketball now. He's a building block piece of this Rockets core. His paltry second-round salary also allows Houston a ton of salary-cap freedom—obviously important in the Summer of Dwight.
Canaan might be the next in a line of successes for Morey. The explosive young guard from Murray State was one of the more prolific scorers in the nation last season, averaging 21.2 points per game. He has an elite first step and finishes well around the basket, key skills that allow his off-the-dribble three-point game to thrive.
There isn't a Nashian bone in his body to be found, and he's a little slight in stature. Those are the two major knocks on his game, ones that won't cripple him in the Rockets' uptempo system. If there's anything we've learned from Houston last season, it's that the team has gone full force with an analytics-based offensive flow. Three-pointers and shots in the restricted area are the two emphases; mid-range shots go to Houston and die.
Canaan fits perfectly within that mindset, and he could get an opportunity far quicker than anyone expected. Sham Sports' Mark Deeks reported earlier this week that the Rockets were trying to trade incumbent starting point guard Jeremy Lin:
Should that happen, Patrick Beverley would likely take over as starter. And Canaan? If he's impressive enough this summer, a key bench role isn't out of the question.
Jamaal Franklin, SG-SF, San Diego State (No. 42, Memphis Grizzlies)
Franklin's descent out of the first round was a complete shock. His stock was up and down during the process because of teams' inherent skepticism about wings without a position who can't really shoot—yeesh, I'm selling this guy well already. But Franklin had long been considered a lock for the late first round. ESPN's Chad Ford had him ranked 19th, while Draft Express was only a little more bearish at No. 23.
In a normal draft, Franklin was a second-round draft choice. Prevailing wisdom, though, was that Franklin would find his way into the first 30 picks due to his elite athleticism, lateral quickness and versatility on the wings.
The 41 selections that passed before the Grizzlies mercifully took Franklin off the board proves otherwise. In a league where wing shooting is becoming more important by the season, it was apparent that Franklin's still-developing jumper gave teams hesitance in pulling the trigger. That might be a good thing for Franklin in the long run.
One of his best NBA player comparisons is that of Tony Allen, the perimeter-defending menace who has spent each of the last three seasons in Memphis. Allen, a hard-nosed defender with athleticism and quickness is widely regarded as one of the league's finest defenders. Depending on the opponent, Allen can go from guarding Chris Paul to Kobe Bryant to LeBron James and give each night terrors.
If Franklin's NBA destiny is to become the next Tony Allen, he's found the perfect time and franchise to do it. Allen will be an unrestricted free agent this summer and should command some interest on the open market. He's become ingrained with the city of Memphis, the human personification of the grit-and-grind mentality of this roster. But money talks, and the Grizzlies' recent moves suggest they're looking forward to a different era with a different core.
It's possible that Allen walks, with Franklin serving as his replacement in waiting. Even if he doesn't, that's not necessarily a bad thing for Franklin. Allen has undoubtedly picked up an encyclopedia's worth of tricks for guarding the game's best players, ones that he can pass on to a protege like Franklin.
Allen is 31 years old. Guys who rely on lateral quickness and athleticism to make a living decline far more rapidly than those with offensive skills (e.g. Wallace, Gerald). Franklin could use that time under Allen to develop a corner three-pointer and learn the tricks of the NBA trade.
In either case, Franklin should find himself in the Grizzlies' rotation within the next couple seasons.
Ryan Kelly, PF-C, Duke (No. 48, Los Angeles Lakers)
You're not going to get much closer to "perfect" than this. Coming out of Duke, there were questions about whether Kelly would even be drafted. He's a stretch 4 with a great outside shot and passing skills at the top of the key, but he has the athleticism of a shoe and doesn't rebound well. Couple that with foot surgery leaving him unable to work out with teams during this draft process, and it was questionable whether Kelly's collegiate tape would acquit him enough to have his name get called.
Remember, Kelly wasn't a volume scorer in college. He took and made open jumpers created by others as a third or fourth banana in Duke's offense. His importance to the team was spoken about at length during the season, but collegiate glue guys aren't exactly in-vogue in the NBA—even as second-round picks.
In hindsight, we all should feel worse about ourselves for not locking Kelly into the Lakers' selection at No. 48 from the beginning of this process. Of course Mike D'Antoni would draft one of this class' most projectable stretch 4 players. It seems almost too obvious.
By now, we all should have a pretty good idea of D'Antoni's offensive philosophy. Seven seconds or less might be the sexy catchphrase that goes along with the Lakers coach's policy from his days with the Phoenix Suns, but taking quick shots is far down the line of principles in his offense.
In his ideal situation—not Los Angeles—D'Antoni employs a system with only one man stationed in the painted area (a center) and four spread across the floor. It's commonly referred to as a four-out, in-in system. Preferably, that system includes a power forward who can consistently knock down mid-range and even three-point shots—a stretch 4.
The purpose of this is to keep the floor spread out as much as possible, allowing optimum room for ball-handlers to create via pick-and-roll and other avenues. It's both extremely simple in execution and has been revolutionary in practice. One has to wonder whether the Miami Heat would have found their small-ball destiny had it not been for D'Antoni's system.
As we saw last year with Pau Gasol, though, not all 4s like hanging around the edges of the three-point stripe. D'Antoni wasted and alienated Gasol early in his Los Angeles tenure before finally starting to use him like Pau stinking Gasol down the stretch last season.
Kelly definitely isn't going to replace Gasol unless D'Antoni Eternal Sunlight of the Spotless Mind'd his brain from the Earl Clark experiment. But D'Antoni has had success finding roles for guys like Channing Frye and other similar players. These are players who probably wouldn't find much of a role anywhere else, with a very limited skill set that will only fit one or two areas.
It's possible that Kelly's Lakers tenure doesn't even last through the summer. D'Antoni's presence in Los Angeles at least makes it a consideration that he does.
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