The 2005 NBA Draft came to a close late Tuesday night with the selection of Alex Acker. In previous years, Acker would have little to no chance of playing on an NBA team next season. However, with the new CBA going into effect this summer, second round picks are more valuable than ever. Active rosters will increase from 12 to 14 players next season, creating more space for the previously expendable second rounders. Also, teams now have the option to send younger players down to the NBDL for more playing time and development. David Stern knew what he was doing when he negotiated this piece into the CBA. Now teams will be able to think more long-term and develop their stars of tomorrow. Speaking of those stars of tomorrow, I have broken down several of this years second round class into three categories: sleepers, keepers and weepers. Sleepers are players who maybe werent supposed to be available in the second round and could end up becoming steals down the line for the teams that picked them. Keepers are well established players who will without a doubt be on their teams rosters. Weepers are the unhappy players who thought they were first round picks and slid to the second round or out of the draft all together.
The sleepers in this years second round all have two things in common: they are all from Europe and they all could have long careers in the NBA. Ersan Ilyasova was selected by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 36th pick. Ilyasova had been projected by some to go as high as the late teens, but somehow fell to the Bucks in the early second.
Ilyasova is young and raw, but has all the skills youd want out of a small forward. He has a decent shot and good size at 69. Its been said that Ersan doesnt want to return to Europe, so he could be a candidate for the NBDL, at least for the first half of his rookie season. Still, Ersan has the potential to be the Bucks three man of the future. Roko-Leni Ukic was one of the biggest free fallers of the draft, lasting all the way to Toronto at the 41st pick, when many had him pegged for the middle of the first round. Ukic has been a star in the Adriatic League and is a brilliant playmaker. He also has excellent size for the point position at 65. The Raptors must have been ecstatic to see him last so long and Im sure he was an option at their 16th pick. It wouldnt surprise me at all to see Ukic on the opening day roster and perhaps even starting by the all-star break, assuming Rafer Alston continues to disappoint. Mile Ilic has been on the NBA radar for many years, despite being only 20 years old. Ilic is still raw and skinny, but the Nets have had success drafting raw, skinny players before (see Nenad Krstic). Ilic will most likely be left in Europe for a season or two, allowing him to put on a few more pounds and develop his game. Should Ilic reach his full potential, he could become a very big part of the Nets future.
My final sleeper is Mickael Gelabale. Gelabale was another potential first round pick who slipped into the second round. He is an impressive talent with off-the-charts athleticism. He is already a solid defender and rebounder and once he develops a consistent shot, he will be a steal for the Sonics at 48.
The keepers of this years second round are all graduating seniors which should allow them to contribute right away. Salim Stoudemire kicked off the second round, selected by the Hawks with the 31st pick. Everyone knows that Salim was the best shooter in the NCAA last year and without even stepping onto an NBA court, he is arguably the best shooter in the NBA. The Hawks must believe he can play the point full time, because they are already stacked at the wings. If Salim can develop some point guard skills he will be that much more valuable to Atlanta. As it stands right now, he will be on their roster, at least as a reserve shooter. Ronny Turiaf will no doubt be on the Lakers roster come opening day. He wont be a hall of famer, but he does the little things that Phil Jackson loves. He rebounds like a champ and is an underrated defender. You couldnt ask for a better energy big man than Turiaf. Ryan Gomes is another guy who should have no problem adjusting to the NBA game. He is a bit of a tweener, but has a decent enough shot that he can play the three full-time. Hes a no frills, blue collar forward that should have a long career as a 7th or 8th man, which is exactly what Danny Ainge wanted. Dijon Thompson looked like a waste of a pick for the Knicks at 54, but upon learning that he was headed to Phoenix as part of the Q-Rich-Thomas trade, it became clear that he would be getting a lot of playing time next season. Thompson is long, athletic and perfect for the Suns up-tempo style. Hes not quite the shooter that Q-Rich is, but he is a much better defender and will be a vital bench player for Phoenix for many years.
These are the guys who should not have declared. Many, many underclassmen and high school seniors get the wrong advice from people who dont have their best interests in mind. This year saw a handful of early entrants who thought they were sure-fire first round picks, or at the very least high second round choices. Kelenna Azubuike, Dwayne Jones, Matt Walsh, Anthony Roberson, Kennedy Winston, John Gilchrist, Tiras Wade and most notably, Randolph Morris, all had the option of returning to school and improving their stock, but now they will be stuck fighting for their lives in summer leagues, minor leagues, or euro leagues; these are not the leagues these guys want to be in, in fact, they all probably feel 20,000 leagues under the sea right now. This years second round saw a record number of high school players selected. CJ Miles, Monta Ellis, Louis Williams, Andray Blatche and Amir Johnson all must have thought they were first round picks, or else they most certainly would have opted for college.
Now they have to fight for a roster spot and may end up playing in the NBDL. No million dollar contracts, no big houses and fine cars, just hope that they can prove themselves. Its actually quite sad because all of them either signed a letter of intent with or were reportedly recruited by top programs, and would have assuredly improved their stocks by playing in the NCAA. For everyone who thinks the new age rule is a bad idea, track the careers of these five young men and youll see why it had to be done. My final two weepers were, at one time, projected to go as high as number one overall. Now they will be forced to follow a different path. Chris Taft has been a lottery pick on most mock drafts all season, despite showing disappointing stats and a lackadaisical attitude. His reputation and lack of work ethic finally caught up with him and he dropped like a sack full of hammers. He may end up finding a spot on the Warriors bench, but his minutes wont crack double digits for at least the first few years or perhaps ever. Its too bad, because he would have been the man at Pitt next year, with the departure of senior Chevon Troutman. Martynas Andriuskevicius is another guy whod been projected to go very high. He had scouts drooling over him for years, as his was 73 and could actually move quite well. Not to mention he was being tutored by the great Arvydas Sabonis.
What people apparently werent seeing was that he is very skinny and will always be very skinny. He also has the T-Rex arms, as his wingspan was the same as Rashad McCants, who is almost a foot shorter than him. He may end up panning out though, as he will be playing under another 73 Lithuanian in Ilgauskas, but he will never be as good as he was supposed to be.
In Sum, no longer will the appearance of Russ Granik be followed by changing of the channel. The second round will continue to rise in importance as teams learn to use the new system. Hopefully in future years we will see a lot more keepers and sleepers in the second round, but my guy tells me there will always be a number of weepers. Playing in the NBA is a dream for many, but sadly there are only so many rosters spots to go around. Make sure to keep an eye on the second round in the coming years, you may end up seeing a future star, or at the very least, see a grown man cry.