NBA Draft 2014: Projecting Second-Round Picks Who Will Be Major Contributors

Rob Goldberg@TheRobGoldbergFeatured ColumnistMay 21, 2014

MEMPHIS, TN - MARCH 14: Russ Smith #2 of the Louisville Cardinals dribbles the ball upcourt against the Houston Cougars during the semifinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament at FedExForum on March 14, 2014 in Memphis, Tennessee. (Photo by Joe Murphy/Getty Images)
Joe Murphy/Getty Images

The NBA draft is not usually known for its depth. The superstars are usually taken with the first few picks while the rest of the first round is reserved for role players. Those taken in the second round often struggle to make a roster.

Of course, there are always surprises. Players like Lance Stephenson and Chandler Parsons have proven in recent years that there are gems to be had after the first round.

This year could feature some more sleepers available in the second round after most of the big names are off the board.

These players all have various flaws that will prevent them from being taken early, but organizations that take a chance of them will be thrilled to get major contributors at this late stage of the draft.


Isaiah Austin, C, Baylor

SAN ANTONIO, TX - MARCH 23: Isaiah Austin #21 of the Baylor Bears runs up the floor against the Creighton Bluejays during the third round of the 2014 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at the AT&T Center on March 23, 2014 in San Antonio, Texas.  (Photo by T
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

There are many things to like about Isaiah Austin. The first is his size at 7'1" with the biggest measured wingspan in the class:

Not only does he use this to be an effective player in the post on both ends of the court, but he can get a shot off whenever he wants over smaller defenders. Although his outside shooting numbers dropped last season, he has proven capable of stepping out and consistently hitting three-point shots.

The problem is that he's standing on the perimeter too often for his size. The biggest reason for that is his lack of bulk at about 220 pounds. He looks like a pole standing on the basketball court, and his lack of strength allows him to be pushed around inside.

On the other hand, this is a solvable problem. A player that is too skinny can easily find ways to add strength before contributing at the next level. This is not something that can be changed for someone who lacks the height necessary to compete.

NBA fans should certainly remember Kevin Durant being just as thin when he was drafted.

Austin has a unique skill set that helps give him loads of upside. His versatile game should allow him to be a quality player if he reaches his potential.


DeAndre Daniels, SF, Connecticut

PITTSBURGH, PA - JANUARY 19:  DeAndre Daniels #2 of the Connecticut Huskies drives to the basket against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Petersen Events Center on January 19, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  PITT defeated UCONN 69-61.  (Photo by Justin K. Al
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Shabazz Napier was the star for Connecticut this year, putting the squad on his back to make a surprising run to the national championship. However, he did not do it all himself. In reality, the maturation DeAndre Daniels is a major reason for the Huskies' postseason success.

After an inconsistent regular season as a secondary scorer, Daniels exploded for an average of 16 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, including two 20-and-10 performances. He was aggressive inside and capable of draining threes from the perimeter.

Most importantly, the small forward found a way to create opportunities for himself, something that he will need to do often at the next level. He certainly showed this ability in the national championship game with the athleticism to finish inside:

The biggest problem teams will have with Daniels is the fact that he is a relative unknown. Before the NCAA tournament, he was basically just another player on UConn not named Shabazz. It's hard to trust that he's capable of consistent production against top competition.

However, he is everything you could want from a wing, making him a fantastic prospect going forward.


Russ Smith, PG, Louisville

LOUISVILLE, KY - FEBRUARY 01:  Russ Smith #2 of the Louisville Cardinals shoots the ball during the game against the Central Florida Knights at KFC YUM! Center on February 1, 2014 in Louisville, Kentucky.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

There is nothing Russ Smith can do to make up for his height (6'0"). However, he has proven throughout his college career that this won't affect him, and his success should continue into the NBA.

After the guard led Louisville to a national championship in 2013, he was even better and more efficient this past season. He increased his three-point shooting and assists per game, which helped end the notion that he was just a wild player.

At this point, he takes this negative connotation as an insult, explaining to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

I averaged 13 shots per game this year. I was the most efficient player in the country the last two years, according to Ken Pomeroy [the analytics guru named Smith the most productive player in the country those seasons]. For someone to say that I just jack shots, that's kind of making fun of me. That's disrespectful. I work hard. I play both ends of the floor. Last year, maybe you could pull that card. But I was still the most efficient player in the country.

Smith still has the quickness and surprising athleticism to get into the lane and score at will or create his own shot from anywhere on the court. However, he has now proven he can be a team leader and someone who helps the squad win in any way possible.

There is no question that whichever team drafts will find a way to get him onto the floor early in his career.


Thanasis Antetokounmpo, SF, Delaware 87ers

There are many factors that cause teams to fear drafting international talent. They are often very raw compared to players who come out of college due to the lack of high-level experience. Additionally, there are sometimes problems adjusting to the culture after moving so far from home.

However, Thanasis Antetokounmpo will not have to deal with either after competing in the NBA Developmental League this past season with the Delaware 87ers. He averaged 12 points per game while showing the ability to fill up the stat sheet and score in a number ways. 

Additionally, the Greece native showed throughout the year an elite defensive ability, which was also on display at the NBA scouting combine, according to Jonathan Givony of Draft Express:

Antetokounmpo posted impressive numbers at the combine, finishing in the top 10 in both the three-quarter court sprint as well as the maximum vertical jump. This speed and leaping ability is certain to help on both ends of the court at the NBA level.

With his brother, Giannis, impressing many in his rookie season with the Milwaukee Bucks, Thanasis has similar upside with the ability to be an immediate contributor on the defensive end.

Although he is two years older, whoever drafts the Greek star will be happy they did.


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