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Given the nature of the NBA Draft, and the rosters that rookies will be attempting to join, the process can be a difficult one for second-round picks. For the most part contracts aren’t fully guaranteed, and roster sports are already at a premium. But there can be players who slip in the draft and ultimately become “steals,” going on to earn a full roster spot after having their names called by Mark Tatum as opposed to Adam Silver. Below is a look at some players who may qualify as steals come Thursday night.
SG Quentin Grimes, Houston
As we’ve seen in recent years, wings who are both capable shooters and defenders have only increased in value. The Western Conference champion Suns boast two such talents in Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, and it isn’t like the champion Bucks lacked in that department, either. That bodes well for a player like Grimes, who could very well hear his name called during the latter stages of the first round. But if he should slip into the second, that would make the Houston standout a value pick for whichever team grabs him.
Listed at 6-foot-5, 205 pounds, Grimes is coming off of a junior season in which he posted averages of 17.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 3.3 3-pointers per game, while shooting 40.6% from the field, 40.3% from three and 78.8% from the foul line. Grimes does need to get better when it comes to finishing in traffic, but the perimeter shot is there. And he has also show the ability to serve as a secondary playmaker, making himself even more of an asset offensively. Defensively, he made noticeable strides throughout his two seasons playing for Kelvin Sampson.
PG Jason Preston, Ohio
Preston’s path to draft night is an incredible one, as he had plans to study journalism at UCF before solid performances at a couple grassroots tournaments led to him enrolling in prep school instead. From there it was off to Ohio on a basketball scholarship and, over the course of three season, he developed into one of the best players in the Mid-American Conference. Also on his resume: a first-round NCAA tournament win over Virginia. Boasting an excellent feel for the game as a playmaker, Preston averaged 15.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.6 3-pointers per game last season. And his percentages from the field (51.4%) and from three (39.0%) were very good.
The one concern when it comes to whether or not Preston’s perimeter shooting will translate to the NBA is his free throw shooting, as he made just 59.6% of his attempts. But it’s important to note that he averaged 2.4 attempts per game; as a sophomore, Preston made 72.5% of his free throws (4.1 attempts per game). At 6-foot-4, 187 pounds, Preston has good size for a point guard, which only adds to his elite feel for the game and ability to chance pace in order to keep defenders off balance.
PG Nah’Shon Hyland, VCU
An argument can be made for “Bones” meriting first-round status, especially given how much he improved from his freshman to sophomore season. Moved into the starting lineup after spending much of his first season coming off the bench, Hyland increased his scoring by more than ten points per game and earned Atlantic 10 Player of the Year honors. Shooting 44.7% from the field, 37.1% from three (on 7.8 attempts per game) and 86.2% from the foul line, Hyland averaged 19.5 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.9 steals and 2.9 3-pointers per game last season.
At 6-foot-3, 173 pounds he has good size for a point guard, which came into play with regard to both his ability to create clean looks and affect passing lanes defensively. Not only did Hyland shoot the ball well from the perimeter, but he also proved to be effective using ball screens and also playing in transition. While he will need to get better as a creator, he’s got some microwave-like qualities when it comes to potentially giving a team a nice scoring boost off the bench.
SF Joe Wieskamp, Iowa
The 6-foot-6, 212-pound Wieskamp started all 97 games that he played in during three seasons at Iowa, serving as a dependable wing scorer for the Hawkeyes. This past season was his best as a collegian, with Wieskamp averaging 14.8 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.9 steals and 2.4 3-pointers per game, with shooting splits of 49.1% from the field, 46.2% from three and 67.7% from the foul line. At first glance the free throw percentage would be a bit concerning. But it’s worth pointing out that Wieskamp was a 77.1% shooter for his Iowa career, including an 85.6% mark as a sophomore.
Also he managed to make strides defensively, with his individual rating improving in each of his three seasons. While Wieskamp may not be considered a “lockdown” defender, he’s capable of fitting in well within a team scheme. He performed well at the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, improving his draft prospects in the process. While Wieskap may not be discussed with other 3-and-D wings such as Chris Duarte, Corey Kispert and Trey Murphy, he would represent good value in the second round.
PF Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, Villanova
Robinson-Earl was considered by more than a few draft analysts to be a first-round talent before his sophomore season, but at this stage in the process it appears that he’s more likely to hear his name called at some point in the second. The 6-foot-9, 230-pound Villanova standout earned Big East Player of the Year honors (shared with teammate Collin Gillespie and Seton Hall’s Sandro Mamukelashvili), averaging 15.7 points, 8.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.6 blocks and 0.9 3-pointers per game.
Robinson-Earl shot the ball reasonably well from the field (49.7%) and the foul line (71.4%), but there’s still some work to be done on the perimeter. Averaging 3.3 attempts per game, he made just 28.0% of his 3-pointers this season. That being said, being part of an offensive system that stresses fundamentals and gives its forwards the freedom to play on the perimeter should benefit Robinson-Earl in the NBA. With more work, he has the potential to fill the role of a floor-spacing four at the next level.
SG/SF Aaron Henry, Michigan State
Henry’s an athletic wing who’s capable of taking on a variety of defensive assignments, and he improved offensively throughout his time in East Lansing. Last season the 6-foot-6, 215-pound wing averaged 15.4 points (an improvement of 5.4 ppg from his sophomore year), 5.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 steals, 1.3 blocks and 0.9 3-pointers, shooting 44.9% from the field and 76.2% from the foul line.
Henry still has some work to do as a floor spacer, as he made just 29.6% of his 3-point attempts. But the improved ability to make plays off the dribble is certainly something that NBA teams have taken notice of. Defensive versatility and athleticism is what will get Henry on the radar in the second round. Whether or not he manages to carve out a roster spot for himself will depend upon his continued development as a consistent perimeter shooter.
C Luka Garza, Iowa
The 6-foot-11, 243-pound Garza was the best player in college basketball last season but, as we’ve seen in the past, that doesn’t always translate to the NBA. In the case of the former Hawkeye, the concern is his perceived lack of athleticism. But he moved quite well in Chicago, and he was listed 22 pounds lighter than his weight at Iowa. It’s clear that the offensively skilled center is willing to put in the work, and he’s a more than capable scorer on all three levels. Last season, Garza averaged 24.1 points, 8.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 0.7 steals, 1.6 blocks and 1.4 3-pointers per game, shooting 55.3% from the field, 44.0% from three and 70.9% from the foul line.
While there are still some defensive issues to be worked on, especially when it comes to defending in ball-screen actions, the offensive polish that Garza brings to the table can’t be ignored. And it isn’t like an NBA team can’t adjust its defensive scheme to accommodate Garza if need be. He’s viewed as a late-second round pick by many and, at that point in the draft, Garza could very well prove to be a steal.