There are always gems to be found in the second round of the NBA draft.
Just look to this season's NBA Finals at a pair of players selected in second round of the 2012 NBA draft: Phoenix Suns forward Jae Crowder (No. 34th) and Milwaukee Bucks guard Khris Middleton (No. 39). Both players are now playing for their first chance at a ring.
Let’s not forget that the 2021 MVP, Nikola Jokic, was the 41st pick in the 2014 draft. There are a ton of successful NBA players who were second-round draft picks and have outplayed their initial draft spot.
The 2021 NBA draft is less than three weeks away, and although there’s a lot of star power at the top of the draft, there are a few players who could end up falling and being steals in the second round.
Here is a look at six sleeper picks in the second round who could have long, successful careers in the NBA.
Ht./Wt.: 6-foot-7, 188 pounds
Kentucky: 12 ppg, 4.5 rpg
Draft range: 30-40
Scouts and NBA personnel were disappointed that Boston opted out of the scrimmages at the NBA draft combine. Boston had an underwhelming season at Kentucky, shooting only 30% from 3-point range and 35% from the field. NBA teams and fans will finally see Boston on the court for the Klutch Sports pro day on July 13 (5 p.m. ET, ESPN2), and scouts will be locked in on whether or not his jump shot has improved.
Despite struggling at Kentucky last season, there’s still a ton of upside to Boston’s game. He has great length at 6-foot-7 with a 6-foot-11 wingspan and was a dynamic shooter in high school, averaging 19.7 points and seven rebounds on a loaded Sierra Canyon team playing alongside Bronny James, Ziaire Williams and Amari Bailey. The spacing in the NBA will cater more to Boston with his playing style off the wing and not having so much structure in the offense. The NBA game favors shooters and playmakers, and if Boston’s shot starts to fall, he will be a steal for any team. He has the potential to have a long NBA career.
Ht./Wt.: 6-8, 269
Florida State: 12.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg
Draft range: 35-50
Gray is not your typical power forward in the NBA, but he was one of the toughest players in the ACC the last three years and did a little bit of everything on the court for the Seminoles, who have been one of the top teams in the conference the last five seasons. He averaged 1.7 points per possession when cutting and ranked in the 97th percentile, according to Synergy Sports. He also was rated ‘excellent’ and was in the 85th percentile or higher in isolation situations and post-up possessions.
The Boston Celtics took Tennessee Vols power forward Grant Williams with the 22nd pick in the 2019 draft. Williams is 6-foot-6, very active around the rim and averaged nearly 20 minutes per game this past season. Gray, who is two inches taller than Williams, is just as aggressive around the basket and can come in right away next season and give solid minutes to any team that picks him up.
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 203
Auburn: 9.4 ppg, 5 rpg
Draft range: 30-40
The combo forward out of Alaska wasn’t the most exciting freshman in the SEC this past season, but scouts saw glimpses of a promising career at the NBA level. Thor shoots the ball well for his size, and even though his shooting percentage wasn’t great (30% from deep), he possesses great shooting mechanics with a high release that’s hard to defend. Thor measured a wingspan of over 7-foot-3 at the NBA draft combine. With a little bit of time and development with the right NBA team, Thor can be a dynamic swing-four in a couple years. The lefty fits the modern-day NBA forward who has enough versatility to do a little bit of everything on the court.
Ht./Wt.: 6-7, 206
Alabama: 11.2 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 3.3 apg
Draft range: 35-55
Jones was incredible for the Crimson Tide during the end of the season. He averaged 14 points and 10 rebounds per game during the SEC tournament and helped lead Alabama to its first SEC championship in 30 years. Jones was also named the SEC Player of the Year and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year this past season. He’s a tough wing who averaged 1.1 points per possession, including passes, according to Synergy Sports.
“I have no idea why Jones is projected so low in these mock drafts,” one SEC head coach told Yahoo Sports. “He was one of the toughest players we faced and defensively, he was all over the court whether that was guarding the perimeter or dropping down low to strip the ball. He’s a terrific player who hasn’t even scratched the surface yet.”
Ht./Wt.: 6-4, 197
Ohio State: 16.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 2.9 apg
Draft range: 40-55
Washington Jr. was the floor general for the Buckeyes this season and led them to the Big Ten championship game where he finished with 32 points and added eight boards in a tough overtime loss to Illinois. Washington Jr., the nephew of former NBA point guard and current Los Angeles Sparks head coach/general manager Derek Fisher, is an excellent 3-point shooter as a lead guard. He made five or more 3-pointers in five games this season and ranked in the 97th percentile in spot-up shooting, averaging 1.3 points per possession.
Washington was called up from the G League combine and asked to participate in the NBA draft combine after a strong showing. He’s had excellent individual workouts for teams and has met with the Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Pelicans, Toronto Raptors, Charlotte Hornets and New York Knicks so far.
Ht./Wt.: 6-9, 206
Texas: 10.3 ppg, 6.7 rpg
Draft range: 30-45
Brown is one of the most athletic players in this draft class and has a lot of room for growth at the next level. He’s extremely deadly in transition and can fly by players and get to the rim with ease. The only area of concern for NBA teams is his outside jump shot, which still needs improvement. Brown shot only 33% from 3-point range in his one season at Texas and struggled from deep in the two scrimmages at the NBA draft combine. If Brown’s 3-point shot improves and he develops a more complete offensive game, he could end up being the biggest steal of this draft class when looking back five-to-10 years down the road.
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