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Who are the best second round picks in this year’s draft?

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The NBA draft came and went last night, and our friends over at Pro Basketball Talk have just about all the content you can handle, evaluating every single pick that was made during the draft. Our own Travis Hines gave you a list of the winners and losers from draft night as well. 

Here, I’m going to take a look at the players that were taken late in the draft that will have a chance to become the “How did 30 teams miss on this guy?” star from the second round, as well as a couple names that could go from undrafted to the Next Fred VanVleet.

SECOND ROUND STARS

NIC CLAXTON, Georgia (Brooklyn, 31st)

Claxton was the first pick of the second round, and while it was mildly surprising that he dropped to the second round — he was one of the 22 Green Room invites — Claxton’s rise from relative unknown to NBA player is impressive. What makes him so intriguing is his perimeter ability as a 7-footer. He’s a fluid athlete that is versatile enough to project as a multi-positional defender with the ability to protect the rim while also having enough skill as a ball-handler and a shooter that he can play away from the basket. He’s very much still a longterm project — Claxton has wide shoulders and was a late-bloomer, but he weighs just 217 pounds — but this is a pick that Brooklyn made with minimal downside and the hope that the next Pascal Siakam just fell into their lap.

ERIC PASCHALL, Villanova (Golden State, 41st)

The Warriors have proven themselves quite adept at finding talent that can contribute in the second round in recent years. Quinn Cook, Jordan Bell and Patrick McCaw were all second round picks, while Kevon Looney and Damian Jones were the last pick in the first round. I think Paschall is another guy that fits that mold. He’s an explosive athlete that, at 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds with a 6-foot-11 wingspan, can guard a number of different positions at the NBA level. He’s not a great three-point shooter, but he has proven the ability to get hot and managed to make 35% of his threes as a senior. More importantly, he spent the last three years thriving in a Villanova system that prioritizes many of the things that Golden State’s offense does and churns out plenty of NBA role players. He should be able to immediately step into their rotation and help, which is basically all you can ask for in this range.

TALEN HORTON-TUCKER, Iowa State (Lakers, 46th)

I have no idea how this pick ended up belonging to the Lakers, but it did, and they landed the youngest prospect in this draft in Horton-Tucker. In an era of positionless basketball, Horton-Tucker is exactly that — at 6-foot-2.5 without shoes with a 7-foot-1.5 wingspan, Horton-Tucker is strong enough to be able to guard fours (he weighs 240 pounds) and skilled enough to be able to act as an initiator offensively. He is a capable shooter that can stand to improve in that area, but the combination of his age and his entirely unique physical profile and skillset makes him more than worth the risk in the middle of the second round.

TERANCE MANN, Florida State (Clippers, 48th)

The Clippers added a pair of Seminoles that will help them. Getting Mfiondu Kabengele at 27th is terrific value, as is scooping up Mann at 48th. Mann doesn’t do one thing at an elite level unless you consider “does everything well” a skill. He’ll be able to guard multiple positions at the NBA level, he’s tough and he’s going to be a worker. If his offensive game can come around to the point that he has to be guarded at the three-point line, he has some real 3-and-D potential. But there is a lot to like about his physical tools and his approach to the game.

JORDAN BONE, Tennessee (Detroit, 57th)

Bone is the best athlete in this draft not named Zion Williamson. He make not have thrown down the dunks that Ja Morant threw down this year, but when it comes to all-around athleticism — all of those drills that players get tested on during the combine — Bone is second-to-none at the lead guard spot. He can shoot it, he can handle the ball, he has a high basketball IQ, he can pass and he has good positional size at 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds. He’s also tough as nails, a winner and one of the guys that willed Tennessee into being the best program in the SEC the last two seasons. There is a place for him in the NBA.

UNDRAFTED

Our friend Kurt Helin over at Pro Basketball Talk put together a list of the top ten players that were not drafted on Thursday night, and it’s tough to disagree with any of his choices. I think it’s also important to note that some of these decisions were likely the result of players ‘betting on themselves,’ asking teams not to draft them in order to sign with what they believed to be the best place for them to land.

I do, however, want to make two additions to this list.

PHIL BOOTH, Villanova

Anyone reading this space knows how much I love Booth specifically and the players that come out of the Villanova program in general. I think that he has a real chance to latch on as a rotation player somewhere in the NBA. He has NBA range, he can play on or off the ball and he should, at the least, be a capable defender in the league. I do think there’s a job for him at the next level.

CHARLES MATTHEWS, Michigan

Before he tore his ACL, Matthews was having a terrific pre-draft. He was in the midst of proving himself as one of, if not the best wing defender in this draft class. I don’t expect that to change because of the ACL, and when he gets healthy again, I think that he’ll be able to find a way to get onto a roster.

John Petty Jr. returns to Alabama for senior season

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama guard John Petty Jr. is staying in school instead of entering the NBA draft.

The Crimson Tide junior announced his decision to return for his senior season Monday on Twitter, proclaiming: “I’m back.”

Petty, the Tide’s top 3-point shooter, averaged 14.5 points and a team-high 6.6 rebounds rebounds last season. He was second on the team in assists.

Petty made 85 3-pointers in 29 games, shooting at a 44% clip.

Alabama coach Nate Oats called him “one of the best, if not the best, shooters in the country.”

“He’s made it clear that it’s his goal to become a first round pick in the 2021 NBA Draft and we’re going to work with him to make sure he’s in the best position to reach that goal,” Oats said.

Fellow Tide guard Kira Lewis Jr. is regarded as a likely first-round draft pick.

McKinley Wright IV returns to Colorado

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McKinley Wright IV will be back for season No. 4 with the Colorado Buffaloes.

The point guard tested the NBA draft process before announcing a return for his senior year. It’s a big boost for a Buffaloes team that’s coming off a 21-11 mark in 2019-20 and was potentially looking at an NCAA Tournament bid before the season was halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wright was an All-Pac-12 first team selection a season ago, along with an all-defensive team pick. He and athletic forward Tyler Bey declared for the draft in late March. Bey remains in the draft.

“We’ve got unfinished business,” said Wright, who averaged 14.4 points and 5.0 assists per game last season.

Midway through the season, the Buffaloes were looking like a lock for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since ’15-16. Then, the team hit a five-game skid, including a loss to Washington State in the Pac-12 tournament. Simply put, they hit a defensive rut they just couldn’t shake out of, Wright said. It drove him to work that much harder in the offseason.

“This is my last go-around and I’ve got big dreams,” the 6-footer from Minnesota said. “I want to take CU to a place they haven’t been in a while. We want to go back to the tournament and win high-level games.”

The feedback from NBA scouts was reaffirming for Wright. He said they appreciated his transition game, movement away from the ball and his defensive intangibles. They also gave Wright areas he needed to shore up such as assist-to-turnover ratio and shooting the 3-pointer with more consistency.

He took it to heart while training in Arizona during the pandemic. He recently returned to Boulder, Colorado, where he’s going through quarantine before joining his teammates for workouts.

“The work I put in and the time I spent in the gym compared to all my other offseasons, it’s a big gap,” Wright said. “Last offseason, I thought I worked hard. But it was nothing compared to the time and different type of mindset I put myself in this year.”

Another motivating factor for his return was this: a chance to be the first in his family to earn his college degree. He’s majoring in ethnic studies with a minor in communications.

“My grandparents are excited about that. My parents are excited about that,” Wright said. “I’m excited about that as well.”

Wright also has an opportunity to take over the top spot on the school’s all-time assists list. His 501 career assists trail only Jay Humphries, who had 562 from 1980-84. Wright also ranks 13th all-time with 1,370 career points.

NOTES: Colorado announced the death of 95-year-old fan Betty Hoover, who along with her twin sister, Peggy Coppom, became fixtures at Buffs sporting events and were season ticket holders since 1958. Wright used to run into them not only on the court, but at the local bank. “I’ve never met anyone as loving and supporting and caring as those two,” Wright said. “They hold a special place in my heart. It sucks that Betty won’t be at any games this year. Maybe we can do something, put her name on our jersey. They’re two of the biggest fans in CU history.”

Jared Butler returns to Baylor

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Baylor got some huge news on Monday as potential All-American Jared Butler announced that he will be returning to school for his junior season, joining MaCio Teague is pulling his name out of the 2020 NBA Draft to get the band back together.

Butler was Baylor’s leading scorer a season ago, averaging 16.0 points and 3.1 assists for a team that went 26-4, spent a portion of the season as the No. 1 team in the country and was in line to receive a 1-seed had the 2020 NCAA Tournament taken place.

With Butler and Teague coming back to school, the Bears will return four starters from last season’s squad. Starting center Freddie Gillespie is gone, as is backup guard Devonte Bandoo, but those are holes that can be filled. Tristan Clark, who was Baylor’s best player during the 2018-19 season before suffering a knee injury that lingered through last year, will be back, and there is more than enough talent in the program to replace the scoring pop of Bandoo. Matthew Mayer will be in line for more minutes, while transfer Adam Flagler will be eligible this season.

Baylor will enter this season as a consensus top three team in the country. They will receive plenty of votes as the No. 1 team in the sport, making them not only a very real contender for the Big 12 regular season crown but one of the favorites to win the national title.

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As MaCio Teague returns, Baylor now awaits Jared Butler’s NBA draft decision

Butler is the key.

Baylor was one of college basketball’s best defensive teams last year. They finished fourth nationally in KenPom’s defensive efficiency metric, a ranking that dropped after they Bears lost two of their last three games to TCU and West Virginia. Where they struggled was on the offensive end of the floor. The Bears would go through droughts were points were at a premium and their best offense was a missed shot. Butler’s intrigue for NBA teams was his ability to shoot and to create space in isolation. He’s the one guy on the roster that can create something out of nothing for himself.

And now he is back to try and lead Baylor to a Final Four.

Arizona State’s Martin to return for senior season

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TEMPE, Ariz. (–Arizona State guard Remy Martin is withdrawing from the NBA draft and will return for his senior season in the desert.

“I’m blessed to have the opportunity to coach Remy Martin for one more season,” Sun Devils coach Bobby Hurley said in a statement Sunday. “Remy will be one of the best players in college basketball this year and will be on a mission to lead Arizona State basketball in its pursuit of championships.”

A 6-foot guard, Martin is the Pac-12’s leading returning scorer after averaging 19.1 points in 2019-20. He also averaged 4.1 assists per game and helped put the Sun Devils in position to reach the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year before the season was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Martin’s return should put Arizona State among the favorites to win the Pac-12 next season.

Martin joins fellow guard Alonzo Verge Jr. in returning to the Sun Devils after testing the NBA waters. Big man Romello White declared for the draft and later entered the transfer portal.

Hurley has signed one of the program’s best recruiting classes for next season, headed by five-star guard Josh Christopher.

Michigan State forward Xavier Tillman will remain in the 2020 NBA Draft

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In the end, Xavier Tillman Sr.’s decision whether or not to return to remain in the 2020 NBA Draft for his senior season came down to security.

A 6-foot-8 forward that averaged 13.7 points, 10.3 boards, 3.0 assists and 2.1 blocks this past season, Tillman was an NBC Sports third-team All-American a season ago. He’s projected as the No. 23 pick in the latest NBC Sports mock draft. He was the best NBA prospect that had yet to make a decision on his future until Sunday.

That’s when Tillman announced that he will be foregoing his final season of college eligibility to head to the NBA.

In the end, it’s probably the right decision, but it’s not one that the big fella made easily.

Tillman is unlike most college basketball players forced to make a decision on their basketball future. He is married. He has two kids, a three-year old daughter and a six-month old son. This is not a situation where he can bet on himself, head to the pro ranks and figure it out later on.

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He needs something stable, particularly given the fact that we are living in the midst of a pandemic that has put the future of sports in doubt, at least for the short term.

He needs security.

He needed to know that there would be a job for him in the NBA. Not a two-way contract. Not a spot on a camp roster or a chance to develop in the G League. Hell, there might not even be a G League next season. That was an option at Michigan State. He was living in an apartment with his family that was covered by his scholarship and stipend. He had meals paid for. He was able to take food from the training room home and have dinner with his family. He was able to get to class, to the gym, to practice and back home in time to do the dishes at night. He told NBC Sports in March that the school was able to provide him with $1,200-a-month to help pay for things like diapers high chairs. That was all going to be there if he returned to school. It was a great situation, one that lacked the uncertainty that comes with the professional level.

Because as much as I love Tillman as a role player at the next level, NBA teams do not all feel the same. The tricky thing about the draft is that it makes sense to swing for the fences on the guys that can be locked into salaries for the first four years of a contract. The Toronto Raptors took Pascal Siakam with the 27th pick and have paid less than $7 million in total salary in his first four years for a player that made an all-star team. Kyle Kuzma is averaging 16.0 points through three seasons and is on the books for $3.5 million in year four.

Tillman’s ability to defend, his basketball IQ, his play-making and his professional demeanor means that he can step into the modern NBA and do a job as a rotation player for just about any team in the league. But he doesn’t have the upside that other bigs in the same projected range have — Jalen Smith, Daniel Oturu, Jaden McDaniels, Zeke Nnaji — so there are teams that are scared off.

I don’t get it.

But Tillman’s decision to head to the professional ranks indicates that he does, indeed, feel confident in the fact that he will have gainful and steady employment next season. Since he would have walked at Michigan State’s graduation in May had it been held, that doesn’t leave much to return to school for.

The Spartans will now be left in a tough spot. There are quite a few pieces to like on this roster. Rocket Watts had promising moments as a freshman, as did Malik Hall. Gabe Brown and Marcus Bingham are both talented players. Joey Hauser had a good season at Marquette, and the early returns on freshman Mady Sissoko are promising. But this is going to be a young and unproven group.

Izzo has had less at his disposal before, but this is certainly not an ideal situation for Michigan State.