The coverage leading up to the 2014 NBA draft will be dominated by the likes of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Joel Embiid and Dante Exum, among others.
However, a number of talented players available later in the draft have the talent necessary to make an immediate impact. The 2014 draft class is loaded with skilled players, meaning some of those impact guys could ultimately fall to the second round.
With that in mind, here is a look at some potential second-round sleepers worth keeping an eye on as the draft approaches.
Nick Johnson, Arizona
If you can get the Pac-12 Player of the Year in the mid-second round, it’s probably an indication that the draft class is loaded with talent.
Nick Johnson was a consensus First Team All-American for the Arizona Wildcats in the 2013-14 season and finished with nightly averages of 16.3 points (the team high), 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 1.1 steals and .7 blocks. Perhaps more impressively, Johnson averaged fewer than two turnovers per game despite the fact that he was one of the primary ball-handlers and was used in more than 26 percent of the team’s possessions.
Johnson also shot nearly 37 percent from behind the three-point line and 78 percent from the charity stripe.
His primary weakness as an NBA prospect is his lack of height (6’2”) relative to other shooting guards. However, his ability to get out in the open floor with his athleticism and speed and then finish at the rim helps him overcome any height disadvantages he may face in half-court sets.
A First Team All-American who can play either point guard or shooting guard and lock down opposing ball-handlers isn’t a bad consolation prize in the second round.
Patric Young, Florida
Patric Young averaged 11 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.1 blocks a game at Florida and helped lead the Gators to the Final Four, but he will get a look from NBA teams because of the fact that he is a physical specimen.
In fact, Kristine Leahy of CBS Sports points out that he could look to football if basketball doesn’t work out:
Hey if the NBA doesn't work out for Patric Young (I think it can) some NFL GMs should give him a serious look at TE! Kid's huge!— Kristine Leahy (@KristineLeahy) March 29, 2014
Young’s biggest strength is on the defensive side of the ball. He alters a number of shots simply with his presence in the paint and is a force on the glass. Good luck trying to box out Young.
If we are to project Young’s NBA career, he probably won’t be someone a team can build an offense around, even if he is a solid finisher at the rim.
Instead, Young can be a solid piece off the bench as part of a second unit. He can anchor a defense, help contain an opposing big man and grab some rebounds. Considering the fact that he is also a proven winner, teams could do much worse in the second round.
LaQuinton Ross, Ohio State
Sometimes, the best route to go in the second round is to draft pure talent and hope it eventually works out.
LaQuinton Ross brings tons of pure talent to the table, even if he never really fulfilled his potential at Ohio State. Still, he led the Buckeyes with 15.2 points and 5.9 rebounds a game this season and was the only consistent three-point threat on the roster. He is also a great finisher in traffic when he gets to the rim, and he posted those numbers with the opposing defense locking in on him as part of an offensively challenged squad.
Ross certainly got the blessing of his college coach, Thad Matta, when he declared for the NBA draft. Matta said the following in an announcement, via Raphielle Johnson of College Basketball Talk: "LaQuinton was an instrumental part of our success over the last three years. His goal is to compete at the highest level possible. He will have that opportunity because of the work he has put in to prepare for this day. He will be missed at Ohio State and we wish him nothing but the very best."
Ross still needs to work on his defense, but he gradually improved over his collegiate career. He also needs to keep his emotions in check. He was ejected against Northwestern for shoving a player and received a technical in the Big Ten tournament against Nebraska for a similar offense.
Still, his raw talent will be too much to pass up on in the second round for some team. Ross is a pure scorer who can get to the rim and has a silky smooth release on his jumper.
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