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Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finding a Second Round All-Star

I wanted to do a piece on potential second round picks in this draft that possess the most upside, but I decided it would be appropriate to look at previous second round steals from the past 15 years. These 5 players are the only American players to be selected in the second round who went on to play in an All-Star game at some point.

A few things you will notice about these player:

1) None of them are that elite type of athlete that one would generally associate with a high upside pick in the second round. Furthermore, none of them were freshman in college - although Rashard Lewis came out as a high schooler.

2) The majority of these guys earned their stripes as scorers. Part of this has to do with the all-star criteria. There are some other second round steals during this time period that didn't make an All-Star game primarily because scoring tends to be overvalued for such awards.

3) Everyone in this group became great shooters and most had questions about their shooting abilities entering the draft. However, none of them had bad shots coming out of college. Their jumpers were all repairable and most showed improvement during their time in college as well.

4) Pinpointing talent in the second round is only half of the battle. Second round picks become restricted free agents after two years and you can easily be placed in a tough situation of having to overpay your draft steal to retain them. The Cavs and Warriors lost their all-star caliber steals because they made their worth known to the rest of the league right away. Rashard Lewis and Michael Redd were able to stay with their teams for a longer time because they didn't play consistently their first two season.

If you have a second round steal on your hands, it may be smarter to hide them a bit until you are able to lock them up for at least a few years. These steals lose a lot of their value if you are forced to pay them 10+ million a year after they've only played two seasons. The Wizards jumped on Arenas, but never were able to take the next step with him as the centerpiece. There hasn't been a second round pick in the NBA that has proven he can be the best player on a championship worthy team, so its risky to invest a bunch of money in a  player two years after he wasn't even good enough to go in the first round.

5) Most of these guys wouldn't have been labeled as huge risk/reward picks when they entered the draft. The didn't necessarily succeed because they finally achieved their "unlimited" potential. These guys consist of combo guard tweeners, undersized power forwards, and a very typical looking shooting guard. The only guys who could have been associated with the word potential were Gilbert Arenas and Rashard Lewis.

6) Oddly enough, none of these guys were overlooked due to lack of exposure. They all went to big schools.  In fact, three of the four that went to college played in the NCAA Final Four! Only Mo Williams did not, but his team entered the NCAA tournament as a #2 seed.

7) International players are a different animal when it comes to the second round so I left them out. But when it comes to finding steals in the second round, taking a overseas player is as good of a bet as any.

Mo Williams

Draft Year: 2003
Drafted By: Utah Jazz
Pick Number : 47
Left After ___ Year: Sophomore
College: Alabama

Mo Williams left Alabama after two successful years at Alabama and was viewed as one of the best players on the board when the Utah Jazz selected him. However he lacked great athleticism or size to make up for his lack of PG skills and only shot around 30% from 3-pt range. The Jazz never reaped the benefits of their smart pick as they cut him after his rookie season. Williams then greatly improved his outside stroke and went to an all-star game primarily because he was a great spot up threat playing with LeBron James. There was reason to believe that Williams could become a good shooter as he shot above 80% from the line in college. With repetition, he expanded his range to fit the NBA game.

Carlos Boozer

Draft Year: 2002
Drafted By: Cleveland Cavaliers
Pick Number: 35
Left After ___ Year: Junior
College: Duke

Boozer left school after his junior season, with a National Championship under his belt from the prior year. He was a winner and produced, but many questioned his size and speed. He played out of position at Duke as well and struggled to finish against taller players. His jump shot had potential as he showed range out to 18 feet, but he didn't hit it consistently yet. But given the range he showed in college and his solid free throw shooting, it shouldn't have been a surprise that he became one of the best mid-range shooter power forwards in the game.

Boozer made an immediate impact for the Cavaliers and as a second round pick, was in line for a big pay day after playing just two seasons. He was a restricted free agent and bolted to the Utah Jazz. Ironically, Boozer went in the opposite direction as Mo Williams but both had some good years playing with LeBron.

Michael Redd

Draft Year: 2000
Drafted By: Milwaukee Bucks
Pick Number: 43
Left After ___ Year: Junior
College: Ohio State

Entering the draft after a final four run the prior year, Redd wasn't known as a shooter at all. The Ohio State star had the size and the physical profile of a prototype shooting guard, but never shot above 34% from deep in his college career. He was more known for defense and solid slashing ability. In his junior year, his FT shooting jumped from 61% his first two seasons to 77%. His improvement in shooting proved to be more than just an outlier as he went on to be one of the most prolific shooters in the NBA.

He didn't play much in his rookie season, but came on strong at the end of his second year for the Milwaukee Bucks. He didn't play consistently enough behind Ray Allen, however, for any team to trust him with a big offer as a restricted free agent so they Bucks were able to keep him on a bargain contract until the 2004-05 season. Thats when Redd cashed in with a huge contract - a contract that ended up being one of the worst contracts in the NBA as Redd battled injuries for the remainder of his NBA career.

Rashard Lewis

Draft Year: 1998
Drafted By: Seattle Supersonics
Pick Number: 32
Left After ___ Year: High School
College: N/A

Lewis was famously the last player remaining in the Green Room in 1998 and took it hard as only a high school kid. He wasn't thought of as a second round talent, but perhaps dropped because teams didn't view him as ready enough physically for the NBA. He already had signs of a great jumpshot from his high school days.

Like Michael Redd, Lewis didn't play much his rookie season and shared time as a sophomore player. Because of this, the Supersonics were able to retain Lewis for a relative bargain after he became a restricted free agent following his second season. Also like Redd, it was his third NBA contract that ended up killing a NBA team - as the Magic were stuck with his max contract for years.

Gilbert Arenas

Draft Year: 2001
Drafted By: Golden State Warriors
Pick Number: 30
Left After ___ Year: Sophomore

Arenas left Arizona his sophomore year with dreams of being picked in the first round, but instead went with the first pick and the second round. He had the talent of a first round pick, but had a lot of questions surrounding his game as well. He was in between positions, made lots of questionable decisions, and was only an average ball handler. Despite a very good first step, he didn't look like a point guard. His shooting at the time was only average as well - he shot just under 74% in his career at the FT line and 36% from behind the arc. However, his 3-pt shooting rose above 41% in his final year, although his FT% dipping to 71% sent a mixed message.

Arenas quickly became a volume scorer in the NBA, putting up big numbers on some poor Warrior teams. By his second year, Arenas was no longer a secret and drew a lot of attention as a restricted free agent. Warriors were unable to match the Wizards offer at 10 million dollars a season and lost their second round steal after just two seasons. Gilbert's third contract ended up doing in the Wizards when they signed him to a max deal and he was eventually involved in a trade for Rashard Lewis.

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This shows us that finding the guys with all-star potential isn't as easy as identifying the best athletes and the rawest players. Some guys simply get overlooked and written off. In this draft, the big time potential guys in the second round include Archie Goodwin, Ricky Ledo, BJ Young, Adonis Thomas, and Myck Kabongo. But maybe there are some guys with less tangible upside that could be overlooked. Here are two possibilities based on draft history:

Erick Green - Green fits the Mo Williams/Gilbert Arenas mold. All were great scorers in college, but didn't show much point guard skills because they were needed to score the ball. However, all had plenty of experience with the ball in their hands. Green has the jumpshot, quickness, and first step to be a scorer in the NBA. He produced big time in college, but is being overlooked in this deep point guard class.

Jackie Carmichael - Carmichael's scouting report reads very similarly to what was said about Carlos Boozer when he left Duke. Both had good post games, played smart and tough, rebounded, and showed some shooting ability. Like Boozer, Carmichael is far from a consistent shooter at this stage but has decent mechanics and range out to 18 feet.

Conclusion: If you swing for the fences, most of the time you will end up striking out. But if you just try to make solid contact, the ball will go over the fence once in awhile.

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