The 2014 NBA Playoffs are in full throttle right now, with teams fighting in their own Game of Thrones. However, for some teams, the winter came a bit early as their seasons finished with the conclusion of the regular season. The Tywin Lannisters and Robb Starks of the playoffs are fighting for Winterfell, while the lottery-bound teams are just fighting to be a part of the Night’s Watch. These teams that took the black are on the outside looking in, but the NBA Draft is right in front of them.
With the NBA Draft Lottery happening on May 20, tanking teams will finally have their questions answered. Was tanking a whole season worth it? Are Andrew Wiggins and Jabari Parker going to be wearing Lakers purple and gold or Sixers red, white and blue next season?
While a lot of the nostalgia will be from the first round of the draft, the second round also boasts some heavy hitters. Familiar NCAA names such as Russ Smith, Isaiah Austin, Keith Appling and James McAdoo will be selected in the second round, speaking to the depth of this draft. The big-boxed prizes will be taken within the first few selections, but there are plenty of stocking stuffers full of potential in the second round.
The second round is full of talent but let’s take a peak at 15 second-round prospects who could eventually make some noise in the NBA.
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Louisville didn’t reach the title game, however the electric play of Russ Smith made a statement that NBA GMs won’t be quick to forget. Before this season, Russ Smith had a reputation of being a loose cannon, similar to Russ Westbrook, but without the point guard instincts. Smith averaged 18.2 points, 4.6 assists, 3.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals in 29.3 minutes per game for Rick Pitino this season. Statistically, Russ Smith took a huge developmental leap from his junior to senior season. Smith’s field goal percentages went from 41 percent to 46 percent, and his three-point shooting increased from 33 percent to 39 percent. Adding a healthy dose of perimeter shooting, along with a knack for converting at the rim, makes Smith an all-around lethal player. Per Draftexpress.com, Smith made 50.4 percent of his shots at the rim this season, increased from 44.8 percent as a junior.
His impressive season season earned him First Team AP All-American honors and Smith was also a finalist for National Player of the Year. Those accolades are russdiculous, however, because of his small frame at 6-0 and 165 pounds, Smith isn’t projected to be drafted until the second round. Russ Smith is not a complete product–he’s a bit turnover prone and is lacking some essential point guard characteristics. But the development that Smith showed from his junior to senior season should have NBA GMs praying that Smith falls into their laps in the second round. Smith led the Cardinals to a National Championship in his junior season–he’s a proven winner.
The leap that he made during his final season in college should show that Russ Smith will only keep scaling upwards as the years progress. Russ Smith can be compared to another second-round pick in Maurice Cheeks, who was a 6-1, 180-pound point guard who was selected with the 36th pick in the second round in 1978. Cheeks played 15 NBA seasons, including winning an NBA championship with Philadelphia in 1983 while being one of the top defensive point guards of his time. This shows that draft selection means nothing in this league, as long as the player gets the opportunity to produce. Like Cheeks, Russ Smith is a ferocious on-ball defender, which will earn him minutes in any NBA backcourt.
Russ Smith will receive this opportunity and don’t be surprised if you come back to this article in a few years and find out why Smith was born to blow up in the NBA.
Isaiah Austin can literally stand amongst the trees–no seriously. Austin stands at 7-1, but has a 7-3 wingspan coupled with a 9-3 standing reach. The NBA Draft isn’t about measurements, however, it’s about production. Coming into Baylor, Isaiah Austin was locked to be a one-and-done and run to the NBA Draft last season. An off-season shoulder injury derailed those plans and Austin stayed for his sophomore season. With a 7-3 wingspan, Austin is a rim protector the moment he steps onto the court, which was proven by his Big 12 leading 119 blocked shots (3.1 BPG) this season. He scored 11.2 PPG and grabbed 5.5 RPG on 45 percent shooting from the field. Those numbers seem Roy Hibbert-like (not in a good way), but did you know that Austin is blind in one eye? Imagine trying to play basketball at a high level with only having 50 percent vision–Austin should be applauded for the work he puts in every night.
At 7-1, the potential is oozing out of Isaiah Austin. At 220 pounds, Austin will need to gain some weight (probably 20 pounds) to bang with the boulders in the NBA. Even at his height, Isaiah Austin had a reliable jump shot and can stretch opponents out as far as the three-point line. The ability of a center to drag a defender out to the three-point line is enough reason to have Austin on the court. It opens up spacing for the entire offense–isn’t it easier to penetrate when Roy Hibbert is on the perimeter? Austin has the ability to shoot, work in the post, block shots and towers over most opponents on the court, even in the NBA. The overall body of work wasn’t the best, but his potential and sharp flashes of brilliance makes Isaiah Austin a diamond in the rough in the second round. With the right amount of polish, this diamond in the rough could turn into something that resembles a former second-round pick named Marc Gasol.
Semaj Christon rose from the depths of a small school named Xavier, which only boasts around 4,000 undergraduate students. Xavier has turned successful products into the NBA such as David West and James Posey. Semaj Christon is looking to be the next success story from Xavier, hoping to turn a successful sophomore campaign into hearing his name called by Adam Silver during the 2014 NBA Draft.
Christon saw increases in his scoring and his shooting percentages in his sophomore season. Semaj Christon shot 48 percent from the floor and 39 percent from deep, improving from his 44 percent from the floor and 25 percent from deep marks from his freshman season. His scoring improved from 15.2 points to 17.0 points per game. Accolades? Christon is no slouch in that department, racking up 2013-2014 First Team All-Big East Conference selection honors and being named to the 2014 Big East All-Tournament Team. In short, Christon terrorized the Big East during his short stay at Xavier.
Semaj Christon is an aggressive guard that also has a pitbull mentality on the defensive side of the floor–his game reminds me of Kyle Lowry, who is flourishing with the Raptors. Christon led the Xavier Musketeers to a 21-13 record and a berth in the NCAA tournament. At his position, Christon has good size for a guard, standing at 6-3 with a wingspan of 6-6. His point guard skills need work, averaging 4.2 assists with 2.6 turnovers this season, but there’s always room for improvement. Christon can put the ball in the hoop, which is what this game is all about.
There will always be doubt about prospects coming from a small time school like Xavier. That’s fine, Christon has all the physical tools to be successful in the NBA. If your favorite NBA team picks Semaj Christon in the second round, just know the star potential is there and ready to be developed.