NBA teams in pursuit of ‘the next Herb Jones’ in second round of draft

In the not too distant past, the second round of the NBA draft seemed headed for footnote status, an “oh by the way” part of ESPN’s five-hour annual broadcast. Many second-round picks were traded. Others were used to select international prospects who stayed abroad and never made it to the league. Deals with second rounds were hardly mentioned. In fact, Round 2 can be such an afterthought that some of the rapid-fire picks announced by NBA Assistant Commissioner Mark Tatum never appear on ESPN’s telecast because they take place during a commercial break.

While the NBA’s second round seemed to be waning at times, it’s possible those days are over, with a number of factors contributing. The implementation of two-way contracts in 2017 expanded rosters from 15 to 17 players per team. The pandemic has meant many of these two-way signers have had to contribute to games over the past two seasons — not just sit at the end of the bench waiting for a chance to play.

As a result, it can be strongly argued that the second round of the NBA draft never actually happened more important because roster depth has never been more important. Led by New Orleans winger Herbert Jones (35th overall) and Chicago guard Ayo Dosunmu (38th), the second round of 2021 was one of the most productive in recent history. Jones has logged 2,335 minutes in the 2021-22 regular season, one of nine second-round rookies to have played at least 500 minutes (up from four each in the previous two campaigns). Dosunmu scored 679 points, becoming one of eight second-round rookies to reach at least 200 (compared to just four in 2020-21 and just one in 2019-20). Jones and Dosunmu played important roles in helping New Orleans and Chicago make the NBA playoffs and ending postseason droughts for those franchises since 2018 and 2017, respectively.

In the weeks leading up to Thursday’s event, numerous website drafts have essentially asked the question, “Who’s the next Herb Jones?” while prospecting for potential second-round thefts. In addition to their #8 pick in the lottery portion of the draft, New Orleans also has a pair of Round 2 picks at #41 and #52.

Here are a few prospects forecast for Round 2 who seem to be gathering draft buzz and/or have a connection to the region:

Patrick Baldwin Jr., Milwaukee

Baldwin, a touted high school contender in 2021 who chose an unconventional NCAA goal to play for his father as college head coach, was once considered a first-round suspension but is now described as a potential sleeper. According to USA Today, the 6-10 forward has “the physical ability and defensive ability that make him an enticing second-round option.”

The Crimson Tide has produced several pros over the past few years, including a 2021 lottery pick (Josh Primo), the top pick of the second round of this draft class (Jones), and two other top picks of late (Collin Sexton, Kira Lewis Jr.). The 6-foot Davison was described by several analysts as one of the best athletes in this draft.

One of the most experienced players in the draft, the 6-5 guard played 131 collegiate games in four seasons, highlighted by a Final Four appearance in 2021. NBADraftRoom.com about Nembhard: “He projects himself as a player who can step in right away and run a second-team offense in the NBA, which is an ability that would get him a second-round draft or make him a priority free agent -should do signing.

Dereon Seabron, North Carolina State

An athletic slasher, his performance at the draft combine in Chicago helped him garner significant attention. ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony tweeted that Seabron “helped himself with two strong plays that showed impressive speed, ball handling and passing while playing mostly PG at 6ft 6 with a 6ft 9 wingspan.”

Jalen Williams, Santa Clara

Like Seabron, this 6-6 guard enjoyed an excellent trip to the Windy City, with United States today He noted that he was the “breakout star of the NBA draft combine.” Williams has an absolutely insane physical profile and one that is ideal for success in the modern NBA. He finished his three-quarter sprint and standing vertical in the 90th percentile or better.”

Jaylin Williams, Arkansas

Not to be confused with Jalen Williams, he has a completely different game and body type than the similar-sounding guard. This razorback is a 6-10 center and has been described by USA Today as “one of the most intriguing big men in the draft and arguably the best passer at his position.” In the SEC, he was particularly adept at making frantic plays, including charging at high rates.

Who are your biggest train sleepers among the prospects who are unlikely to be voted into the top 20 of the first round?

@rtnorthrup: Dear (Colorado forward) Jabari Walker as a potential second-round pass.

@roland_padilla: (UCLA guard) Johnny Juzang. I think he will be someone who can cause immediate offense off the bench. Needs to improve a lot on defense to make it in the league.

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