The Knicks have made their big moves, adding Mikal Bridges, retaining OG Anunoby, and drafting Pacome Dadiet, but the work isn’t done yet. Who can they take at 38?

The beauty of the two-day draft is its simplicity. Instead of the typical rushed frenetic pace that comes with Mark Tatum and the second round in rapid succession, teams and fans alike now have nearly 24 hours to stew on all of the events from round one while preparing for picks 31-58.

Much discussion has been had about the quality of this draft and experts and fans agree that the issue with this draft class is at the top, which is completely devoid of Tier 1 prospects. The big takeaway on top of that, was the depth of this class.

For what this class lacked in stars, it made up for in role players. The discourse will have you think that the high-level role players only exist at the top of the lottery but in a flat draft like this, various archetypal players can be found throughout the draft.

That brings us to a very interesting narrative for when you look at the players still left on the board. There are plenty of potential role players available and some very intriguing archetypes for teams to fill out their bench rotation. However, what is the priority when looking this late in the draft?

Teams are given two real options to consider when it comes to prospects in the second round. You have older, more experienced, and productive prospects with physical flaws or a lack of “tools” that prevented them from being first-round picks. Those players may project to smaller roles off the bench or out of playoff rotations but should be able to contribute and help immediately. Conversely, you have toolsy athletic unproven young players with high upside if things pan out, but a bigger risk of being out of the league entirely.

In this article, we are going to look at players that fit into those two boxes and see who might be a risk worth taking to add some additional depth.

KJ Simpson- Colorado

Small guards are a common trend of second-round flyers with their flaws being the biggest talking points about them. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out, but we have enough examples of size mattering not that you would hope we would be able to move on from that sort of thinking.

The argument of production versus projection holds merit especially when considering translation and scaling up or down. However, the higher the accolades and accomplishments, the harder they are to ignore in that conversation.

That brings us to Colorado’s KJ Simpson: the first-team All-Pac-12 guard and Wooden Award finalist as one of the top 20 players in the country in men’s college basketball. Throughout his three years in Boulder, Simpson showed exponential growth throughout his years as a primary ball handler for the Buffs.

Production was at a premium in all facets for Simpson in his junior campaign as he averaged an impressive 19.7 points per game, along with an impressive 5.8 rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. The shooting was something that has changed his projection as an NBA player, as he increased his three-point percentage to 43% after shooting only 26.5% throughout his first two years.

That shooting prowess this season opened up the rest of Simpson’s game as he is lightning-fast and is able to get to the basket with a quick first step. Even more than that, he is able to push tempo and play fast and is a great creator in transition environments. Those simple reads to kick out or make hit-ahead passes in transition have been an area of improvement in his time as his playmaking has grown tremendously. This helped him improve to a nearly 5:2 assist-to-turnover ratio as his decision-making and passing have improved as he has matured.

The problem with KJ Simpson, who sounds great on paper when you take that offensive power, add in his honorable mention All Defense status in the Pac-12, and finish it off with some of the most clutch buckets in college basketball, is that he is still only six feet tall. That is what is keeping him out of the first-round conversation. He is clearly one of the more complete guards in the class and brings a lot of intriguing talents to the NBA.

If a team can get over the fear of small guards, they have a super-talented and highly competitive guard ready to run their bench units. A team like the Knicks could certainly benefit from a creator coming off the bench.

Jamal Shead- Houston

If you have watched men’s college basketball over the last few years, you are probably familiar with Jamal Shead. Shead is another small guard but has arguably the best collegiate resume in the draft outside of Zach Edey. This year at the University of Houston, Shead was named a consensus First Team All-American, the National Defensive Player of the Year, and Big-12 Player of the Year on his way to leading the Cougars to the 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.

There will likely be comparisons to his former Houston Cougar teammate Marcus Sasser. The major difference between these two prospects however is that Sasser shot 39% from beyond the arc while Shead only shot 30% on half as many attempts per game. The fact that he was able to be as impactful as he was as a college guard without that three-point shot speaks to the other facets of his game.

The words that will probably be used most frequently to describe  Shead are quick, tough, and strong. While he only measured at 6 feet flat at the combine, at 200 pounds, he is strong and can hold his own physically against taller players. While that strength helps, the speed is what makes the difference. Shead will be one of the fastest players on whichever NBA team he joins from day one, and that is what allows him to be impactful offensively.

Shead is one of the better playmakers in this class and is probably the most likely candidate to win the the title of floor general. He averaged 6.3 assists per game at Houston and ran a complex NBA-style offensive for Kelvin Sampson in Houston. He is a smart decision-maker and makes quick reads with extremely fast processing speed and a high basketball IQ. He is a good distributor who is able to manipulate defense and control the tempo of the game.

As one of the faster players in this draft class, you may assume that he is a go-go-go type point guard, but he has a great ability to slow it down. Shead has a low center of gravity and is able to use hostage dribbles to put defenders on his hip and take advantage of the space he creates for himself using that space. He is a smart and willing passer who throws accurate kick-outs and lobs after probing inside of a defense.

Offensively, Shead brings a lot of typical point guard skills to the team that any team would love to have on its’ second unit, but his calling card was really on the defensive side of the ball. The defensive player of the year status (though it probably should have gone to Ryan Dunn) was well-deserved as he is absolutely the best defensive guard in this class.

Defensively, Shead is an absolute nightmare for opposing guards as he seems to see plays develop before they happen. With his lateral quickness, he is able to stay in front of any ball handler and disrupt the offense with quick hands and the ability to jump passing lanes and create plays defensively.

There are questions about a smaller guard holding up defensively, but his instincts, processing, and effort make it far more likely to translate to the next level. The predraft process has been positive for Shead as every scout has praised his motor and effort. Those are the kinds of players that always seem to be worth the risk, especially with the value of a second-round pick.

Ajay Mitchell- UC Santa Barbara

Ajay Mitchell is by far my favorite of these prospects and quite frankly, is the only one that I currently have a first-round grade on. However, as a guard prospect out of the Big West, there are always going to be questions about the level of competition and how that will translate to the association. This will be held against the 22-year-old guard, but his creativity and playmaking more than makeup for the level of competition.

At the combine, the Belgian guard measured well at 6’3.25 without shoes, with a 6’6.25 wingspan and an 8’5 standing reach. That size helps him as both a scorer and passer as he is able to see over defenders which helps when you account for his quick processing and decision-making.

The biggest skill set that NBA teams will likely become intrigued with is the craft and creativity specifically with his footwork and finishing. This creation ability has warranted comparisons to none other than Jalen Brunson, due to the nifty footwork, relentless ball fakes, and step-throughs to find his spots within the middle of the defense.

The two things that allow his skill to shine through are an unbelievable deceleration and a versatile finishing ability. The typical straight-line athleticism that people think of may not always be on display for Mitchell but the ability to change directions and speed in an instant with immense body control is a form of athleticism that he has in a big way. The other strength here is the creativity of finishing with either hand off one foot or two feet. He has shown the ability to finish at weird and awkward angles whether it is the same hand same foot or an inside same-hand finish, he has shown creativity from every possible angle. He made an impressive 60 percent of his half-court shots at the rim, per Synergy on nearly five attempts per game.

Not only has he shown the ability to finish at the rim, but has an arsenal of creative floaters and has great touch in the paint. Along with that touch, he gets to those shots fluidly and within a rhythm that allows him to finish tough shots over much bigger defenders. According to Synergy, Mitchell shot 55% on floaters this season on over one shot a game. As a guard who had a late growth spurt, he has talked throughout his predraft process about having had to learn how to finish over bigger defenders when he was younger and you can see that throughout his game.

Along with the creativity at the rim, similarly to Brunson, Mitchell has an arsenal of dribble moves to set himself for the mid-range. He has talked about that being the first shot that he felt comfortable creating for himself due to his lack of size. Whether it is with a nasty crossover or stepback, Mitchell has shown the ability to create an abundance of space for himself and knock down shots consistently at that level.

As with many prospects, the three-point shot is the swing skill for Mitchell in how he translates to the NBA. He shot 39% from three in his Junior year which was a significant improvement from his 26% as a Sophomore. The important number this year was that he shot 44% on catch-and-shoot threes per Synergy which will be massive for his growth trajectory as an off-ball scorer. There are questions about the jump shot but as an 85% free throw shooter with great touch at all levels within the three-point line, there is very good reason to believe in the outside shot.

As a 20 PPG scorer at UCSB, it would make sense for that to be his calling card as a prospect, but I actually think his playmaking might be what makes him an impactful rotation guard in the NBA. His ability to throw live dribble passing ranks with the very best of this class, specifically when you consider his ability to pass out of dribble moves while manipulating the defense. He is very smart and intentional with his ball handling and uses feints and fakes to move the defenders with his eyes before throwing pinpoint accurate passes to cutters and kickouts.

There is a very real case to be made that Ajay Mitchell has a higher ceiling than the rest of these prospects as a primary ballhandler due to his size and offensive creativity. If the shot is able to develop at the NBA level, it allows him to be able to impact the game in multiple ways on or off-ball.

Jonathan Mogbo- San Francisco

Jonathan Mogbo is one of the more interesting players in this draft class and has been rising up draft boards throughout the predraft process. The size is the biggest concern for Mogbo who measured at 6’6.25 at the combine with a 7’2 wingspan and a 9′ standing reach. So what does that mean for a player with big man length but not size? Does that matter in the modern NBA? I am not sure if it does, but that is the question that NBA teams will be asking themselves tonight as they consider the value of the athletic big man.

If you are looking for above the rim play finisher, look no further than Jonathan Mogbo who had 89 dunks this season at San Francisco. After playing at two JuCo schools and one team in the Missouri Valley Conference, the do-it-all (except shooting) big man found a home in San Fran and made the most of it.

Mogbo is an impressive finisher around the rim that can use either hand and has a combination of skill and size that allows him to get to his spots around the basket. He was used in versatile ways at USF where he often had the ball in his hands. Now at the NBA level, he will have a very different role offensively.

In college, he was a point forward of sorts due to his ball-handling ability, whereas in the NBA he will likely contribute as a roller and out of dribble hand-offs. He is an above-average rim runner who has good hands and can catch a lob or bring it down and finish at the rim. He will also be asked to operate out of the short roll where Mogbo should be able to contribute at a high level.

The skill that intrigues people the most about Mogbo, is the passing. Mogbo averaged 3.8 assists in his senior season, while only contributing 1.8 turnovers a game which is impressive given a heavy usage rate as the Center. Mogbo has exceptional vision and has shown the ability to pass out of nearly every contextual situation. Whether it is a wrap-around pass out of the post or hitting a cutter from the high post, he has the vision and ability to make tough passes with quick processing and decision-making.

For someone whose athletic profile fits a traditional rim running big, Mogbo showed significantly more on ball juice and playmaking than you would typically expect. He can put the ball on the floor and make defenders miss with quick crossovers and ball-handling moves to get downhill and attack the basket. He is deadly at the rim and can get there from a variety of different ways with the ball in his hands.

When you consider that creativity and put him in short roll situations, you have someone who is lethal in 4-on-3 situations as somebody who can make smart reads or attack the basket with tenacity. He reads the defense instantly and arguably shows the most upside in short-roll situations of anybody in this class because of his playmaking ability.

The playmaking ability is the upside draw when evaluating Mogbo, but the rebounding is what makes him a safe pick in my estimation. Jonathon Mogbo had the second-highest defensive rebounding percentage in college basketball this year, as well as the second-highest offensive rebounding percentage. He averaged 3.3 offensive rebounds this year and used his combination of length and athleticism to attack the ball to create additional possessions.

Defensively there are fair questions for Mogbo given his size and what that means for his role at the next level. He is obviously not a traditional big man and will be tasked with guarding guys 6 inches taller than him, which is no easy task. What he lacks in size, he makes up for in scheme versatility.

Mogbo is a defensive playmaker who jumps passing lanes and has active hands to get deflections and steals aplenty. He has great lateral quickness that makes him a theoretical fit to switch on the perimeter to guard smaller players which will be important to his success at the next level. He may struggle with drop coverage due to his size but his strength and length should make up for that lack of height. He is a good help-side rim protector and averaged one block a game in his two years at the NCAA level.

So, mileage may vary on a 6’6 big man with playmaking chops but I think it is worth the risk for an explosive athlete that can handle and pass the ball. Even if he only took 6 catch and shoot jumpers this season, there is enough reason to believe in the versatility on both sides of the ball.

Justin Edwards- Kentucky

When looking at the high upside prospects, it is important to consider the most recent context they played in, as well as the prior context. Justin Edwards is a great example of the need for multiple-context scouting. The reason I say that is because the former top 5 pick was theoretically in play for the number 1 pick before a disappointing season at Kentucky.

That reputation alone does not guarantee that the optimum outcome will ever be achieved. However, it does give a little inside to the potential that Justin Edwards contains when considering what he accomplished and grew into over the course of the year in Lexington.

One of the appeals to Edwards was always that he simply looks like an NBA wing should look. He is big, long, and strong, measuring 6’6 with a 6’10 wingspan and a well-built frame. If you believe in the fantasy football ideas of a “post-hype sleeper”, Edwards may be a nice story of redemption for you as a very theoretical two-way wing.

Going into the year, Edwards and freshman phenom teammate DJ Wagner were supposed to lead the Wildcats to the promised land, in reality, the top prospects became Reed Sheppard and Rob Dillingham and they still lost to Oakland in the first round. Edwards struggled mightily at the beginning of the year and did not look like he could process the game fast enough to play at that level, looking lost on both sides of the ball.

The game slowed down for him as the role scaled down for what Coach Cal asked him to do and he bought into a smaller, more defensive-minded role. The tools are still there and he showed that he can contribute in other ways, with the outside hope that the star wing prospect he was supposed to be is still in there somewhere.

The tools are all there, he is long, strong, and as athletic as all get out. When he gets downhill and gets to the basket, he can finish with authority. That is the type of athleticism that made him be looked at as a potential star two-way wing.

There seemed to be a point in the middle of the season where his teammates and coaches seemed to think everything clicked and he figured it out. Some may argue it was too little, too late, but it was clear he found something and crawled his way back up the draft boards that he was almost completely off of at that time.

Offensively, his role at Kentucky was largely limited to an off-ball cutter who would take an open three when left open. That role seems appropriate for him to continue to develop into a potential 3 and D wing. That requires the 3 to be legitimate which is somewhat of a concern as he shot 36% on under 3 attempts a game. However, his shot looks good and he improved dramatically throughout the season so there is some reason to buy it long-term.

At Kentucky, he was asked to attack closeout and get to the rim but has a very limited arsenal of dribble moves to create separation for himself if he could not get a full head of steam downhill. That is something that would be necessary for long-term development, but early in his career, his expectation would be to be able to knock down open jump shots and finish at the rim and in transition.

His activity offensively shows promise and a high motor that was unlocked throughout the season. This helped him be very active in the offense cutting off the ball, as well as attacking the offensive glass and second chance opportunities or put-back dunks. That activity and motor compounded with his athleticism and frame would help give a baseline of rotation wing that can help the team during the regular season.

After the early struggles at Kentucky, Edwards rebuilt his reputation as a defensive stopper at the college level. He was incredibly active defensively and took pride in taking the toughest matchup he could on that side of the ball. His length and athleticism gave him a high baseline of staying in front of his man and using his frame to stop the momentum of his opponents.

He also uses his length and athleticism well to block shots as a help-side rim protector. There are good tools defensively but he showed flashes that you could buy into as a long-term upside on the wing. It took him quite a long time to adjust to the speed and complexity of the college game and a smart bet would be that the NBA may have the same effect on him.

It is entirely too early to give up on a long, athletic, toolsy wing, even if there are real questions about the development. He may require time in the G league, but with the right organization and coaching, there is a really high upside that could garner insane value in the second round.

Enrique Freeman- Akron

Enrique Freeman is a fascinating story in the other direction and and another example of a ready-to-help role player who is overcoming some physical limitations with effort and energy. The Akron big man is a little smaller than what you would like from a typical big man measuring at 6’7.25 at the combine but making up for it with a massive 7’2 wingspan.

He fits in a sort of purgatory between what you would want in a traditional center and a 4 man in the modern NBA where traditional positions hold less weight but the roles and necessities hold more than ever. You may be thinking that I just described a small ball 5 perfect for the current game, but that would require a level of spacing and shooting that Freeman does not currently provide.

This is not to say that Freeman will not be an effective NBA player and I will tell you why I think he might, but it is safe to say that if he was a few inches taller, there would be much less debate. Even at his size, that did not stop him from leading the country in defensive rebounding percentage with a non-stop motor combined with extreme physicality. He knows how to use his length and has great instincts to attack a rebound on both sides of the ball. He averaged 3.6 offensive rebounds per game as well, mostly due to the relentless pursuit of every loose ball.

Offensively, Freeman was a hub in the post at Akron where he had a high usage and the offense largely ran through him. That will be a different role considering the way that he will likely be used at the next level. This season at Akron, he shot 67% on 251 attempts at the rim, with 59% of those attempts being assisted.

He is a good screener and will likely be used heavily in that way in an NBA offense. That will require some buy-in from him which does not seem too hard to imagine when you consider how hard he worked on every possession at the collegiate level. He will need to add a little more to his game but showed enough to think that he will be able to be a rotation big off the bench, sooner rather than later.

He is a quick decision-maker and a willing passer in short-roll situations looking for kick-outs for open threes. However, he will need to expand his range to stay on be a more valuable contributor on the offensive side of the ball. There are positive indicators to the shooting as he shot 37% from deep this year on only 1.5 attempts per game. He also shot 72.8% from the free-throw line

He made eight pick-and-pop 3s and 37 percent of his 1.5 3-point attempts per game. He hit 72.8 percent of his free throws. That was a significant improvement in his 5th year at Akron compared to his 61% from the line one year prior. This was the first time in his five years of college that he attempted more than three shots from beyond the arc over the course of the season. There are reasons to question the jump shot long term, but it is clear that it was a point of emphasis and he showed growth in those areas.

Along with the effort and rebounding, the defense is the biggest selling point for Freeman as a prospect ready to contribute, He is extremely active and a very smart defender who almost always knows where to be. His wingspan helps him to be a great rim protector who blocked 1.7 shots per game and deterred many more shots than that. He is a good interior defender due to his length and strength even against bigger opponents.

What he does offer is schematic versatility, as he has shown the potential to switch, as well as high-level drop defense. He moves well for his size and looks to be able to guard multiple positions due to the length and movement. Whoever drafts him should expect him to be able to step in and defend well immediately.

Isaiah Crawford- Louisiana Tech

Isaiah Crawford is another funky 5th-year prospect who played a very different role in college due to some on-ball skills that he showed as the power forward. The size is the first thing that jumps off the page as he has a massive 7′ wingspan for measuring at just 6’5. He is another player who played against lower competition and had a big role but projects to be a prototypical 3 and D wing.

The defense is the calling card for Crawford and it is a very appealing one at that. Crawford was an absolute stock machine at Louisiana Tech, as he was one of only 8 players in college basketball with a block percentage of greater than 5 and a steal percentage of greater than 3. The counting stats matched the analytics as he averaged 2.1 blocks and 1.7 steals a game in his 5th season.

Crawford has nearly perfect rotations and is an unbelievable team defender. He is a good defender at the POA and projects well to be an on-ball defender while being an absolute disruptor off the ball. He is a monster help defender and knows how to play the right way without selling out and getting himself out of position. It is clear to me that if Isaiah Crawford can work his way into a rotation, he will be able be a beneficial team defender.

On the ball,  Crawford does a great job chasing screens and disrupting actions with his length and activity. He guarded multiple positions in college and showed the ability to switch to anyone necessary at Louisiana Tech. I think he should be able to guard a minimum of 2-4 at the NBA level if he is able to find a role.

At La Tech, he had the ball in his hands constantly and was able to use his strength and weight to push smaller defenders around and get to his spots, that will not be the case in the NBA. He needs to find creative ways to be able to help an offense, including off-ball shooting. He shot the ball 41% from three on 3 attempts per game and is a career 39% shooter in his 5 years at Louisiana Tech.

Crawford is an older prospect who has twice torn his ACL and is not an explosive athlete. However, he was a really good shooter and a really good defender at the college level. There are questions about how those skills will translate to different roles at a significantly more difficult level of competition than Conference USA. There are very serious questions, but for the value of a second-round pick, you can do much worse than a potential 3 and D wing like Crawford.

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