First round picks are nice, but let us not forget how important picks 31-60 can be. There has been an assemblage of second-round picks in past seasons who have managed to carve their way onto an NBA roster and find ways to contribute.
The 2018 NBA Draft class was deep and saturated with talent. After the first 30 players were selected, there remained a few gems in the second round, waiting to be picked up by an NBA team. These players who may have been skilled enough to be taken in the first round, for whatever reason, fell through the ranks. So, who are these second-round gems and why will they specifically stand out?
To answer that question it is important to break it down into three categories for each player: 1. their situation 2. their overall skill set 3. their potential role on each team.
PG – Jevon Carter – Memphis Grizzlies (32nd overall pick)
After Memphis selected big man Jaren Jackson Jr. with the fourth overall selection, they decided to keep the theme of defense rolling in the second round. In doing so, they were able to grab arguably the best defensive guard in the draft class in Jevon Carter. Carter led the NCAA in steals with 112 last season.
With the Memphis Grizzlies looking to re-capture the “Grind House” style of play that led them to successful seasons in the past, Carter is the perfect selection. Playing behind an experienced and defensive-minded player in his own right in Mike Conley, Carter should find no problem adjusting his style of play to match Conley’s.
Drafting Carter makes logical sense from a health stand-point. Conley has struggled to stay healthy and be out on the floor for Memphis, missing a total of 109 games over the past three seasons. While Carter, on the other hand, did not miss one game in his time at West Virginia. NOT ONE. Having Carter as a healthy and more than capable option who can step up in case Conley is unable to go, should give head coach J.B. Bickerstaff some relief.
As a rookie, his defensive capabilities will be put to the test each night (especially playing in the Western Conference). With that being said, he will have to find other ways to make an impact. In his four years at West Virginia, Carter developed a reliable and consistent stroke from beyond the arc. In his last season with the Mountaineers, Carter averaged 17.3 PPG while shooting 39.3% from three and 42.2% from the field.
Carter has continued to find similar success in the summer league, collecting averages of 9.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 4.5 APG, and 1.3 SPG.
While isolation is not where Carter thrives, he does possess superb decision-making skills which makes him a valuable player to have in the pick and roll game. Having screen options with Jackson Jr. as a rim runner and Marc Gasol as a pick and pop option, Carter should generate healthy assist totals.
In creating opportunities for his teammates, Carter then has a polished jumper and can knock down a bucket if given an open look. With the high level of intensity he plays at, Carter also possesses the ability to take his opponent off the dribble and attack the rim where he can finish or draw contact.
Bench point guard. In no way will he start over Conley. Carter does have the potential to eventually be a starter in this league one day if he continues to improve his offensive game and keep his high level of energy on the defensive end consistent.
Think of him as a younger version of Conley and his eventual predecessor. For now, Carter will most likely come off the bench and command the second unit. Carter could also see a good share of minutes and could even be on the floor at the same time as Conley if the Grizzlies decide to go with an all-defensive unit.
PG – Jalen Brunson – Dallas Mavericks (33rd overall pick)
33. Dallas Mavericks – Jalen Brunson pic.twitter.com/ehnRukwJ3N
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) June 22, 2018
The two-time national champion and Naismith player of the year award winner Jalen Brunson has landed himself in a great situation and organization with the Dallas Mavericks. After general manager Donnie Nelson was able to acquire international wunderkind Luka Doncic in a draft day trade, Dallas beefed up their stacked backcourt by selecting Brunson with the third pick in the second round.
In the Las Vegas summer league Brunson has posted a statline of 7.1 PPG, 5.0 APG, and 2.8 RPG. While he is only seeing the floor for an average of 22.8 MPG, Brunson is clearly working his way towards the speed of the game. Once that is figured out and adjusted by Brunson, his effectiveness will eventually shine through.
With rookie standout last year in Dennis Smith Jr. already in place, many questions have surfaced about how head coach Rick Carlisle will rotate all these terrific playmakers. Brunson is the ideal fit for leading the second unit. He is a player who can be a leader of the team without playing a majority of the teams minutes (watch the national championship game where he was a cheerleader from the bench).
Brunson is capable of taking a backseat for the betterment of the team when he was the backup point guard behind Ryan Arcidiacano back in 2016 when Villanova won the National Championship.
Where to begin with Brunson’s skillset. Although he is only a 6’3″ point guard, Brunson finds himself rather comfortable with his back to the basket in the low-post. Being able to score and pass out of the post as well as shoot the three, Brunson becomes a versatile inside-outside scoring threat. Something that the Mavericks need more of with Nowitzki soon out the door.
With quick and deceiving dribbling moves, Brunson also becomes capable of blowing past and crossing up his opponents, which will be useful in isolation situations as well as the pick and roll game. Basketball IQ is something that cannot go unrecognized and unappreciated, and when you blend that with tremendous talent and ability, you get a player like Brunson.
Brunson is one of the best playmaking guards in this draft. He is a dominant, patient, and confident ball handler with good decision making who always seems to make the right basketball play.
Another attribute Brunson owns is the balance in knowing when to attack and score and when to defer to his teammates. At Villanova, although he was the leader of that team, he was the fourth and final Wildcat taking in the draft. The three players selected before him (Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, and Omari Spellman) all credit one another for their success. As respectable that sounds, Brunson is the true one who should garner the most credit for putting each of them in the best opportunities to be effective on the court.
That experience at Villanova will bode well for him as now he now looks to attack and score or defer to other playmakers like Smith Jr., Doncic, Harrison Barnes, and future Hall of Famer Dirk Nowitzki.
Bench point guard. Smith Jr. and Doncic will be the Mavericks two starting guards when the season tips-off. Brunson has the game of a savvy NBA veteran entering his first season. His poise, basketball IQ, and overall skill set will pay off huge for him as he looks to have a long and healthy NBA career. As a back-up behind Smith Jr., Brunson plays with less athleticism but offers more resolve and steadiness that will be essential for leading the second unit.
C – Mitchell Robinson – New York Knicks (36th overall pick)
Almost a bit of unknown talent, Mitchell Robinson is a raw center who looks to build into a big that the New York Knicks can rely on. After being projected to be taken in the late first round, Robinson fell into the Knicks lap in the second round. New York got their wing scoring threat in Kevin Knox, next on the list for head coach David Fizdale was to add toughness and rim protection. Cue Robinson.
After losing their franchise superstar Kristaps Porzingis to a torn ACL that will most likely see him sit out all of next season, the Knicks will look to Robinson to give them added depth in the front-court. With Porzingis out, this will be a great chance for Robinson to showcase how impactful he can be both on both ends of the floor.
In the four summer league games in which he has played, Robinson has managed to boast a statline of 12.8 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 72% FG%, and 3.8 BPG. It is against summer league competition and it is only four games, but Robinson is putting on quite the display that Knicks fans should be getting excited about.
Enes Kanter gives new Knicks head coach David Fizdale everything that can be asked out of him. A big body who can rebound, set good screens, and provide tough interior defense. The same can be said from Robinson but seeing as how Kanter is established and has the experience, he will get the nod over Robinson in terms of minutes played.
Defensively, Robinson’s long and wiry frame makes it hard for opponents to shoot over him. He is an old-school center who does not give up any possessions on defense. As young and athletic as Robinson is, he is able to step out onto the perimeter and hold his own and make difficult for wing scorers. His ability to contest shots will keep him in this league for an extended amount of time. Take for instance this block:
Mitchell Robinson with the STUFF!!
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) July 7, 2018
On the other side of the ball, Robinson makes up for his lack of outside shooting with his ability to hunt for baskets near the rim. Robinson has been gifted with the ability to time his rebounds off the rim fairly well, giving him great opportunities for put-back slams. He is unselfish and won’t demand the ball every time down the court, making him a great option to pair along with a second unit. As a screen setter, Robinson opens himself up and rolls to the rim with ease and creates a great lob option.
Backup center. Kanter is at no risk of losing his starting job to Robinson. Robinson will be inserted into the game when Kanter gets into foul trouble or the Knicks are matched up with a more versatile and athletic big. He is still a raw talent but with the right coaching and proper opportunities, Robinson should make a significant impact on the Knicks for years to come.
PG/SG – De’Anthony Melton – Houston Rockets (46th overall pick)
The Houston Rockets continued to add to their perimeter depth by selecting USC swingman De’Anthony Melton in the second round. With Trevor Ariza now playing in Pheonix, the Rockets look to fill the void he left behind. Whether that comes in the form of Houston potentially starting a third guard next to Chris Paul and James Harden, Melton’s competition then lies with Eric Gordon, Gerald Green.
Not only is there a starting position likely for Melton, but the system suits his style of play perfectly. Melton will be allowed to run off of screens, spot up in the corner, or even take the ball up the floor at times. Head coach Mike D’Antoni allows his players to play with freedom and in doing so instills confidence in them. Melton has the all the tools that Ariza has in terms of being a three-and-D player. He will slot in well in Houston.
A gifted scorer with a long 6’8″ wing-span, Melton fits the mold of what NBA general managers and coaches look for in perimeter players. With the ability to take his defender off the dribble and finish at the rim with sneaky athleticism, Melton has all the tools to be effective in his rookie season.
De'Anthony Melton with the slick finish!
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) July 6, 2018
The instincts that he carries on defense in terms of stepping in passing lanes and anticipating when to attack the ball at its high point when contesting shots will be more useful to the Rockets than his offense.
So far in the summer league, Melton has posted a healthy stat line of 16.5 PPG on 41% from the field while also chipping in 6.5 RPG, 3.3 APG, and 2.8 SPG.
Players like Courtney Lee, Robert Covington, and Marcus Smart may not be All-Stars but having them on a roster allows for the superstars on their team to be as effective as they are. These players have the capability to tighten the vice grips on their opponent on defense only later to crush the opposition’s will by burying the deep ball. Melton could be mixed into the conversation with these players in a few years and if he keeps up the production that he has shown in the summer league thus far he could surpass them in terms of being a better overall player.
Probable starter. Definite role-player. Unless the Rockets land free-agent to be Carmelo Anthony in the offseason, the opening for that three spot on the Rockets is up for grabs. If Melton can string together a healthy summer league and a strong pre-season, he could very well be fighting for a chance to start for the Houston Rockets in the 2018-2019 NBA season.