Intriguing Options For the 49th Pick

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of all drafts is the fact that any prospect, regardless of where they’re picked, can come out of nowhere to surprise every executive, scout, and draft wizard out there by becoming an excellent player and a steal.

One of the Kings’ most fruitful picks over the dreadful morass of the current playoff drought came with the 60th and final pick of the 2011 NBA Draft. It was Isaiah Thomas out of Washington, who went on to put up a reputable professional career—albeit mostly away from Sacramento—and making two all-star appearances in the process.

In fact, the latter half of the second round has, as a whole, churned out some very good players.

Paul Millsap was the 47th pick in 2006, Marc Gasol was the 48th pick the next year, and Manu Ginobili was the 57th pick a little earlier in 2004. Of course, there’s also the back-to-back MVP Nikola Jokic, who was picked 41st overall in the 2014 draft by Denver.

Sacramento has three picks this year, which includes the 49th selection. Could this be a spot where another notable talent is taken in the final stage of draft night?

If so, here are some potential candidates to do that.

Gabriele Procida 6’7″, 194 lbs., Fortitudo Bologna (Italy) SG/SF, 20 year-old

In April of last year, Mike Schmitz proclaimed Gabriele Procida to be the prospect he’d “feel most comfortable stamping as a sleeper with a real chance to play in the NBA and outplay his projected draft slot.” Though he waited another year to declare for the draft, the same seems to apply this year.

It’s pretty clear what a team would get from the young Italian. Procida is simply an exquisite three-point shooter who shot 39% from deep in 61 games over three seasons playing in Italy’s Lega Series A. His stroke is just effortlessly smooth from all around the perimeter, and some of his shooting highlight reels could be played in slow motion with the operatic singing of Luciano Pavarotti playing behind it.

Procida’s also a good athlete who tied for first in the three-quarter sprint at the combine, so he moves exceptionally well without the ball in his hands, using his fast and flowing motion combined with good awareness to utilize screens to find space for a catch and shoot jump shot, which he hits at a high clip. This fluidity and feel for the game also makes him an adept and effective cutter.

More than that, he is tremendous in transition, using his long, swift strides to run baseline to baseline and either park at a spot for an open three, or use his athleticism to finish with a dunk, which tend to be ferocious as seen in his tape.

Defensively, Procida uses his instincts to be a difference maker at times. He’s very quick and aggressive in pursuing loose balls, and uses his active hands at the right time to grab a steal that allows him to get out and glide in transition.

He doesn’t stand out as a defender, but his perimeter potential is there considering his lateral quickness, speed, length, and instinct for the game.

The thing that keeps him a projected second-round pick is the fact he’s not super dynamic offensively. His sharpshooting ability, especially off catch and shoot looks, is undeniably good, but he’s not a multi-dimensional force.

His playmaking is subpar, posting low assist numbers and proving susceptible to making bad passes and committing turnovers off the dribble. In fact, he is not very confident using any dribble penetration, mainly because of his small frame; though, his athleticism leaves room for promise.

If he’s going to become a well-rounded and highly effective player, he’ll need a bit of polishing. But with what he offers in regards to shooting and how he can plug into offenses as a catch and shoot threat that can move well and understand spacing, he may end up being one of the bigger sleepers in this draft. 

Then again, sometimes it’s hard to tell when players have to transition to the NBA from overseas.

Slotted in various places in the 40’s and 50’s range of many mock drafts, Gabriele Procida remains one of the more intriguing prospects.

Justin Lewis 6’7″, 245 lbs., Marquette SF/PF, 20 year-old Freshman

For a while, Justin Lewis’ size and athleticism highlighted potential that was worthy of a first-round selection and his performance during the NCAA Tournament was destined to dictate where he would be drafted this year. Alas, after a quick exit for Marquette and a 2 for 12 performance in the blowout loss to UNC, Lewis’ first-round hopes became a dream. 

In spite of that, he could still end up being an excellent second-round steal.

For starters, Lewis comes with great size and length, standing at 6’7″ with a 7’2″ wingspan and a strong frame. He will probably play mostly at the 4, but could, in small ball lineups, project to play a little at the 5.

With that, he’s also a solid athlete, though not especially quick. At the combine, he tied for the 4th best standing vertical and a top-10 shuttle run time of 3.02 seconds. He comes with a nice amount of speed, agility and coordination in addition to that NBA size, which he uses to his advantage in transition.

Both those aspects converge to make him an alluring defensive prospect. On-ball, he’s frequently able to hang with a variety of guys with fluid lateral movement, and his lengthy arms allow him to block any smaller guys from behind. In general, Lewis is able to use his body and frame to contest and alter shots from almost anywhere. And of course, he uses his strength when defending in the post, presenting his physicality as a real challenge to bigger players.

Offensively, the most appealing thing about Lewis is his shooting upside. He shot 34.9% from three last year for the Golden Eagles, and about 36% on catch and shoot attempts. However modest those numbers may appear, ESPN’s Mike Schmitz noted the fact that the forward comes with “a projectable shooting stroke.” That stroke proved productive from the corners as well as in transition pull-up’s. 

Additionally, Lewis was clutch at many different points with his three-point shot that he used incredibly well near the end of the year, shooting 46.5% from three in the final 12 games of the regular season.

However, he was still inconsistent. Though he closed the season well, he shot 27.2% from deep in the first 18 games, sprinkling in a few good perimeter shooting games between some horrid stretches, missing a lot of open looks along the way. And one can’t forget the 95-63 loss in the Tournament against North Carolina.

Some of this can be explained by his propensity for shoddy shooting decisions, which Schmitz observed in Lewis’ volume of jump attempts and drives to the rim that feel forced. Similar to his odd tendency to miss open looks from deep, he’s also just subpar at finishing at the rim, and probably because of his over zealous attempts to score. He only had a finishing percentage of 47.1%.

Then there’s the fact he lacks playmaking ability or instinct. Lewis’ ball handling is not exactly tight and his passing could use a lot of work. He’ll also singlehandedly give defense’s a break, dribbling into traffic or double teams too often.

His defensive game isn’t exactly picture perfect, succumbing to similar deficiencies in consistency, particularly when having to rotate and when he leaves his feet too eagerly on close outs.

Regardless, he’s still an attractive defensive prospect with plenty of physical assets and a potential to be a threat from deep in the NBA. Projected anywhere between 39th and 45th, Justin Lewis would be an excellent selection late in the second round at no. 49 if he were to be there.

Ron Harper Jr. 6’6″, 240 lbs., Rutgers SF, 22 year-old Senior

Son of longtime NBA guard Ron Harper, Ron Jr. may very well have the two-way versatility to be both the first player drafted out of Rutgers since 2010 and a nice addition to a club via the later part of the second round.

What immediately pops out when watching Harper on tape is his size and frame. He flaunts a nice mix of length and strength at 6’6″ with a 7’1″ wingspan and a broad-shouldered 245 lb. body (that was his weight during the season; at the combine, he weighed in at 240 lbs.).

One of the primary things that makes him appealing is the fact that Harper’s overall game rides on his unteachable instincts, which are very good. 

With that and as the best player on the Scarlett Knights, Harper was able to flash his handling ability, footwork, and passing intelligence at the center of the offense.

Fulfilling an important criterion, he’s also a pretty good shooter with his feet set, shooting 39.8% from three in his senior season (34% through four years). He also makes an excellent three-point shooter in transition, serving as an excellent trailer. 

With that big body, he’s effective at scoring down in the post, finishing at the rim with a 59.8% clip and proving strong enough to be more of a bother to defenders than they were to him. And he uses his toughness, physicality, and competitive spirit to be a discernible presence on the glass.

On the defensive end is where his instincts happen to really shine.

With his physical weapons, he is a multi-positional defender that provides the versatility to switch onto different players as is common in today’s NBA. His length and physicality make him trouble for some players, and his motor keeps him an ever active participant.

There are questions surrounding Ron Harper Jr. though. There have been some concerns about his weight. Plus, it isn’t exactly clear what specific role he could fill at the next level. And his shot release, though it grew effective over time, is still coming from a noticeably low release point.

Still, he has a solid energy around him that seems to emanate from his competitive, active, and physical style of play combined with a rich feel for the game.

Ron Harper Jr. has a good chance of being available at 49, and his baseline of skills and size present a feasible opportunity to be an excellent asset in today’s NBA if he can refine his game altogether. If so, he could really be another iteration of a Grant Williams-type player. But who knows?

Jabari Walker 6’9″, 215 lbs., Colorado SF/PF, 19 year-old Sophomore

He may not wow scouts, and it wouldn’t be a complete shock if he isn’t taken on draft night, but Jabari Walker’s shooting and defensive upside at the forward position may be more than enough to allow him to develop into a useful piece for an NBA roster.

After shooting an incredible 52.3% from deep on 1.7 attempts a game in a smaller role during his freshman season, Jabari Walker shot 34.6% this last year on 3.2 attempts. When his feet are set, Walker exhibits a smooth shooting motion that is particularly effective in the corners and the top of the arc. 

If he can find a place in the NBA, he’ll project to be a solid floor stretcher and pick and pop threat with a sneaky proficiency for trailing in transition.

His three point shooting obviously shows a lot of promise, but he’s been streaky with it. As is clear, his second collegiate season did not follow up with another prolific three-point percentage. In the first 15 games of last season, Walker shot 21.4% from deep before closing out the final 15 shooting 41.7%. 

Plus, there isn’t much to say beyond his sharp ability to shoot when set because he’s really not effective in any other scenario. Off of screens in his sophomore year, he made just 2 of 15 attempts, cementing himself as only a threat when rooted in a particular spot. This may mean that Walker will need a mechanical adjustment of some kind.

But his ceiling as a three-point shooting combo forward is still relevant, and so is Walker. Not just for shooting, but also because of the fact he’s prospectively a good, smart defender.

While not incredibly so, he’s an athletic forward at his size, instilling a lot of potential in his stock as a versatile defender. His 6’9″ stature and 7’0″ wingspan makes him long, and he’s got solid lateral quickness to stay with quicker offensive players fairly well— though, that needs some work.

Even if a prospect has defensive promise, there is often need for improvement in the player’s off ball defense, but Walker notably brings that ability with him as perhaps his best strength. The forward showed great understanding of when to rotate and switch defensively, making him an excellent team defender.  

But the fact he may be a one-dimensional offensive player that cannot do much off the dribble is a big hold on his value. Not only is his ability to penetrate lacking, but when he gets close to the rim, his attacks are redundant, relying heavily on a subpar spin move. He’s also often come up short in taking advantage of his length when on the attack, showcasing subpar balance and a tendency to be affected by contact.

While not a sure lock to be selected—though, CBS’s Kyle Boone and B/R’s Jonathan Wasserman both have him going in the second round in very different spots—Walker could still be an excellent option late in the draft, offering a skillset that makes him a sort of cut-rate version of late first-round prospect Jake LaRavia

Orlando Robinson 7’0″, 235 lbs., Fresno State PF/C, 21 year-old Junior

Even more so than Walker, the likelihood Orlando Robinson is taken on draft night is pretty low. However, given his offensive skills and stretch-big potential, one can’t discount the possibility that Robinson could carve out a role in a rotation with the help of some further development.

What makes Robinson at least an option at this point in the draft—or even a good option to bring in as an undrafted free agent—is his offensive skillset and ability to score in a variety of ways.

To start, he’s a pretty talented jump shooter, using his height and 7’4″ wingspan to take advantage of a slick face up game. Through three collegiate seasons, Robinson happened to improve his deep stroke year by year, shooting 35.2% on about 3 attempts a game in his junior season.

It’s not a super swift motion with a quick release, but in an open position with set feet, such as in the pick and pop, Robinson is a danger to the defense.

But the Fresno Bulldog doesn’t have to rely solely on a more unwieldy shooting motion as he’s very savvy down in the post. With his tall and slimmer frame, Robinson may not be wildly quick, but he has nice coordination and body control to put good post moves to use and finish with really nice touch around the rim. He comes equipped with a decent jump hook and an ability to hit the turnaround fadeaway.

With what feels like an effective collection of skills, he never forces things offensively, finding his teammates and never getting himself stuck on an island. In his junior year, he averaged just under 3 assists a game with a practiced passing capacity.

He may not be a freak athlete by any means, but he’s not a clunker unfit for the modern NBA as he is more than able to run the floor. With that and the fact he’s a high motor competitor, Robinson offers upside in being fairly versatile as a big. He won’t be able to guard the 2 through 4, per say, but he moves well enough and has sufficiently skilled hands to avoid being a complete liability when switching onto smaller guys.

Still, he will need a lot of work to be a versatile defender given his unspectacular athleticism. Not to mention he can struggle in terms of physicality, frequently falling short in battling down low defensively. And even at 7’0″, he lacks the apparent potential to be a rim protector.

Then, of course, there’s the fact he didn’t see much competition in the Mountain West Conference for Fresno State, which is a cause for concern in regards to an older prospect’s chance to develop adequately.

For Robinson, like a lot of guys, he’ll really have to do two things if he wants to incorporate himself into a role at the next level. One, he’ll have to maintain a consistent propensity to hit three-point shots and stretch the floor. And he’ll have to get stronger without sacrificing any of the athleticism he does have. Even then, it’s not a sure bet.

Still, he’s worth the consideration since he could find his way in the NBA as an offensively skilled stretch-big.

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