When looking at our list of the top second-round picks in the modern era of the NBA, there’s a noticeable trend: they are mostly guards. The truth is that by the time the first half of the first round is over, most big men with sizable upside are already gone. So when you’re trying to identify some potential sleepers, it’s smart to go small.
This year’s draft is pretty deep, so it’s almost a certainty that a few future All-Stars will emerge from those players taken after the lottery is over (pick #15 and on). Here are five guys who have the potential to stick (and possibly thrive) in the NBA.
Rodney Stuckey, G, Eastern Washington
Stuckey was a prolific scorer in college, averaging 24.6 points per game in the Big Sky Conference. He’s big (6’4” in shoes) and is more of a combo guard than a pure point guard, but he did drop 5.5 dimes per game as his team’s main playmaker. The big knock on Stuckey is the competition he faced throughout college, but some scouts believe that he’d be a top 10 pick had he played in the ACC. The league continues to get smaller and there are a number of combo guards – Dwyane Wade, Ben Gordon, Monta Ellis, Randy Foye – thriving in starting roles. Stuckey appears to be made in the same mold. Plus, he has that innate ability to score in a variety of different ways, which is something you just can’t teach. Stuckey is rising up the draft board, and a few mocks have him going as high as #15, to the Pistons. He tested really well at the combine, beating the super-quick Mike Conley in the lane agility drill and almost matching his 3/4-court sprint time.
Acie Law, PG, Texas A&M
Once regarded as the best point guard in this draft, Law has been passed on most mock draft boards by Conley, Stuckey and Georgia Tech’s Javaris Crittenton. Law has all the intangibles – fearlessness, competitiveness and ferociousness. He’s not a great distributor, but he’s a good facilitator. Moreover, he’s not afraid to take the big shot in the clutch and has been very successful in that role. He is reminiscent of Sam Cassell, who was a late first round pick in 1993.
Taurean Green, PG, Florida
Overshadowed by his college teammates, Green would occasionally pick his spots, but he was mostly content to facilitate the offense. He already has NBA three-point range, so adjusting to the longer distance shouldn’t be a problem. He also has the experience and poise of a two-time National Champion, so he’s not going to get rattled easily because he’s played in a lot of pressure-packed games. For a point guard, he has average quickness defensively and isn’t really a great distributor, but the way the NBA is trending, that’s not really a problem. The bottom line is that this guy knows how to win, so he should eventually crack a starting lineup on an NBA team.
Josh McRoberts, PF, Duke
It’s strange to see McRoberts’ name on this list, as he spent most of last season as one of the more overrated players in college basketball. But his stock has taken such a pounding in the last year that he’s actually becoming a sleeper in this year’s draft. Let’s not forget what made scouts fall in love with the kid in the first place: he has terrific ball handling skills and always seems to find the open man. He played out of position in college and should be more effective facing the hoop. While it is worrisome that he didn’t improve a whole lot between his freshman and sophomore seasons, he was asked to do a lot in his second year, and his offensive game just wasn’t ready for it. Still, he tested better than Brandan Wright at the combine, and with this high basketball IQ, he should really thrive with more talent around him.
Chris Richard, PF, Florida
At 6’9”, Richard is a little undersized for a power forward, but his 7’ 4 ½” wingspan is longer than Greg Oden’s (and the second-longest wingspan at the combine). He didn’t get much press while at Florida, but he was willing to do all the dirty work down low. He weighs around 250 lbs, but beat teammate Corey Brewer in the lane agility drill and posted a pretty good time in the 3/4-court sprint, so the guy is more athletic than he looks. Even though a few mock drafts don’t even show him being drafted, he strikes me as a guy that will put the work in to develop his offensive game, and that should earn him a roster spot somewhere. Don’t be surprised if he turns into 2007’s Paul Millsap (though he’s not as good of a rebounder).