With the rise of social media and NBA Twitter, the NBA has become a year-round league. Games happen from October to June, and the other months are full of off-court action.
The main off-season event is the NBA Draft, where 60 players hear their names called by the commissioner himself. From the 2017 NBA Draft, lottery picks like Jayson Tatum, Donovan Mitchell, and Lauri Markkanen are scoring in bunches, and 27th pick Kyle Kuzma has come out of nowhere to lead the Los Angeles Lakers in scoring.
While teams focus on top-end talent, players chosen at any slot can make an impact. All-Stars like Draymond Green, Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, and Isaiah Thomas were all selected in the latter half of drafts.
Here are six second-round picks from last year’s NBA Draft already getting rotation minutes.*
*minimum 10 minutes per game and 20 games played so far
The reigning Naismith College Player of the Year, Frank Mason III fell to the second round due to his small stature and lack of perceived upside after four years at Kansas. In Sacramento, Mason has found a solid supporting role as the maestro of the royal bench unit for the Kings.
His three-point shot has been absolutely deadly at 43.2 percent, albeit on a small sample (16-of-37). This helps to make up for his subpar percentages inside the arc as he adjusts to the NBA game (37.5 percent on all twos, 41 percent within three feet of the basket).
Mason has scored double figures in nine of his 24 games this season, and the Kings have gone 4-5 in those outings. Sacramento is 11-20 overall, so Mason’s scoring punch off the bench is sorely needed. It is very surprising for a rookie, especially a point guard, to have a steady hand running an offense.
2017-18 stats: 8.0 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 3.0 assists in 18.8 minutes per game
With the Boston Celtics trading away some depth in exchange for Flat Earth Champion Kyrie Irving, the team bet on its young guys. Specifically, the front office was willing to give major minutes to young wings Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum, both picked No. 3 overall in the past two drafts.
However, it is unlikely they expected Semi Ojeleye, an SMU product, to be in their rotation from day one. At 6’7″ and 235 pounds, Ojeleye is a “World’s Strongest Man” contestant masquerading as a basketball player. His physical style of play and his 7’0″ wingspan allow him to play suffocating defense.
While developing into a knockdown shooter at the college level, Ojeleye’s offensive game still needs a lot of work at this level. Looking at his shooting breakdown, 78.3 percent of his shot attempts are threes, yet he is only shooting 29.2 percent from downtown.
If and when his shot develops, expect Ojeleye to demand more minutes as a plus defender.
2017-18 stats: 2.5 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 0.2 assists in 14.3 minutes per game
Chicago Bulls fans deserve better. The organization is obviously rebuilding through the draft, and they should take advantage of every pick possible. On draft night, Chicago selected the reigning Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year, Jordan Bell, in the second round.
Instead of keeping him, however, the front office flipped him to the Golden State Warriors for $3.5 million. Now Bell gets to learn from the most versatile defensive player in the league, Draymond Green.
Bell has seen limited action due to the glut of Warrior bigs, but he has impressed when given opportunity. He’s shooting 72.6 percent from the floor, leading all rookies (by a whopping 12 percentage points), and he would actually be first in the entire league if he qualified for the leaderboard.
His off-the-charts athleticism allows him to make highlight plays on both ends of the court, and his passing has been a revelation. The Warriors may have found another gem in the second round.
2017-18 stats: 4.5 points, 3.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 blocks in 12.9 minutes per game
At 6’6″, Dwayne Bacon has good size at the shooting guard position and could feasibly provide a complementary bench scoring punch next to Jeremy Lamb. However, his percentages need to improve to truly become impactful (37.3 percent from the field, 33.3 percent from three).
Bacon has cleaned the glass well in his reserve role, averaging 6.9 rebounds per 36 minutes. As a projected bench scorer (first, second, and third), he doesn’t offer much else apart from points, averaging less than one assist, steal, and block per game.
With the Hornets capped out with their mediocre roster, they are rightfully giving young players like Malik Monk and Bacon a chance to gain some NBA experience.
2017-18 stats: 3.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 0.7 assists in 15.9 minutes per game
Dillon Brooks – Pick No. 45 – Memphis Grizzlies
As a rookie and a second-round draft pick, you normally don’t play 28 minutes a night and start three-quarters of your games. Oregon product Dillon Brooks didn’t get the message.
Brooks has started 24 of his 32 games this year, and he has been an efficient tertiary offensive option in a pretty anemic Grizz offense (29th in points per game). He’s shooting 46 percent from the floor and 36.8 percent on 2.5 three-point attempts per game.
Brooks was more of a defensive-minded slasher in college, and that aspect of his game has translated in the NBA. On offense, 32 percent of Brooks’ shot attempts come within three feet of the basket, and he’s shooting an impressive 63.8 percent at the rim.
His defensive instincts and athleticism help him stay in front of quality NBA starters. Brooks is third on the Grizzlies in steals and tied for fourth in blocks, both impressive feats for a rookie.
With his play so far, Brooks has already proven to be one of the better picks in the 2017 Draft, relative to draft position.
2017-18 stats: 7.9 points, 3.1 rebounds, and 1.2 assists in 27.9 minutes(!) per game
The Clippers are on the cusp of a rebuild. As part of that, the Clips should be focused on obtaining assets and finding out what future prospects they already have on the roster. Enter the hero of South Carolina’s improbable run to the 2017 NCAA Final Four, Sindarius Thornwell.
The rook has played in all 30 Clipper games this season, starting eight. He’s been an efficient, albeit reluctant, shooter thus far in his career, attempting just over three shots per game. Overall, he’s shooting 44.9 percent from the floor and 41.9 percent from three.
Thornwell has been more aggressive in his eight starts, averaging almost five shot attempts in those games. Interestingly enough, with the added opportunity of starting, his efficiency has gone up (47.4 percent from the floor, 50 percent from three).
As Thronwell gains experience, expect him to contribute in an plethora of areas. In college, he was able to provide whatever his team needed on a given night. Expect that malleability to help him carve out a meaningful role.
2017-18 stats: 4.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 0.7 assists in 15.6 minutes per game
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference.com.