Milwaukee Buck guard Malcolm Brogdon made history last season, becoming the lowest-drafted (36th) player since the NBA-ABA merger to be crowned NBA Rookie of the Year.
It took more than four decades for a second-round pick to win the award. It begs the question: How long will we have to wait to see it again?
With a stacked draft class entering the league, not to mention 2016 first pick Ben Simmons gearing up for his rookie season, a repeat seems incredibly unlikely this season. With that said, let’s take a look at five second-rounders worth keeping an eye on.
Frank Mason III, Sacramento Kings, Pick 34
One of the biggest advantages Brogdon had last season was a lack of depth in front of him. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same for Mason.
After using the fifth pick on De’Aaron Fox and signing George Hill in free agency, it’s hard to see the Kings having minutes for Mason. However, talent usually prevails in the NBA, and Mason is coming off an accomplished four-year career at Kansas.
Last season’s Big 12 Player of the Year, the 5-foot-11 lead guard averaged 20.9 points per game on a 49/47/79 shooting line. His ability to score in a variety of ways — enhanced by an ability to keep defenses honest with his 3-point shooting — makes him a legitimate NBA prospect.
Despite their point guard depth, the Kings are looking for all of the NBA talent they can get their hands on.
Mason had only one standout game during the Las Vegas Summer League, when he scored 24 points in 25 minutes against the Lakers. He made up for it in the preseason, however, scoring at least 13 points in three of his four games.
His role is still very unclear, but Mason’s talent and experience running an offense are huge benefits. He has a legitimate shot at being a player people scratch their heads at, wondering why he wasn’t drafted sooner.
Jordan Bell, Golden State Warriors, Pick 38
With a breakout performance in the NCAA Tournament, Bell had a huge variance in outcome heading into the draft. As a second-round pick, it’s feasible he’ll be the steal of his class. Winding up with Golden State increased those chances.
At 6-foot-9 and 224 pounds Bell doesn’t have traditional big-man size. After pulling down 13.2 rebounds and three blocks per game in the NCAA Tournament, Bell proved his size doesn’t matter.
It’s no secret the Warriors thrive playing smaller lineups, and Bell flourishes as a small-ball big. Offensively he’ll stay out of the way barring putbacks and alley-oops, but defensively he can be an anchor.
The Warriors have a roster filled with veterans, including Zaza Pachulia, David West, and JaVale McGee as frontcourt options when the death lineup isn’t out there. However, Bell’s game fits what this team does well, and after three years as a high-end role player at Oregon, he has a chance to be a second-round impact player for a historically great team this season.
Dwayne Bacon, Charlotte Hornets, Pick 40
Unlike the first two entries, Bacon didn’t have a long, illustrious college career. Also unlike Mason and Bell, Bacon has an opportunity at big minutes with Nicolas Batum injured to begin the season.
Even though he played only two years at Florida State, there’s no mistaking Bacon’s impact. After finishing in the middle of the pack offensively last season, the Hornets should gladly welcome Bacon’s scoring.
As a freshman, the 6-foot-7 wing posted 15.8 points per game. Last season he was up to 17.2. He kept his pace through summer league play, averaging 15.4 points per game.
It isn’t always pretty watching him score, but Bacon is physically imposing and still developing his skills. His length and scoring instincts have gotten him to this point, and it’ll be interesting watching him play for Steve Clifford.
Bacon has ways to go to improve defensively, and he isn’t the floor spacer that Clifford typically likes to play on the wings (minus Michael Kidd-Gilchrist), but the talent, athleticism, and playing time should be there for the 22-year-old wing.
Damyean Dotson, New York Knicks, Pick 44
Again, opportunity is vital in the Rookie of the Year race, and the rebuilding Knicks should have plenty of minutes to spread to their rookie guards.
While lottery pick Frank Ntilikina will get more attention, Dotson also has a chance to showcase his two-way game.
Dotson broke out during his senior season at Houston, shooting an impressive 44.3-percent on 7.6 3-point attempts per game. His 17.4 points per game were fifth-best in the American Athletic Conference, but more impressively, he led the conference in effective field goal percentage (59.4) for the second year in a row.
Dotson’s shooting was on full display at summer league, where he converted 48 percent of his 3-point attempts. He’s also shooting 40 percent from 3 through four preseason games.
The rookie’s reputation as a shooter is well-earned, but he also takes great pride in his defense. Dotson led a stout Houston defense in Defensive Win Shares last season, and he finished with an impressive 98.3 defensive rating.
Dotson and Ntilikina have a shot at being the Knicks’ backcourt for the future, and it could start this year.
Monte Morris, Denver Nuggets, Pick 51
Morris has the most to overcome of anyone on this list, with Denver still figuring out the point guard slot. With Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay and Jameer Nelson all fighting for minutes, Morris may not even make the roster.
Morris also signed a two-way deal with the Nuggets, more reason for him to not make the pro team. But his resume is the closest to Brogdon’s, and the Nuggets’ point guard situation is still unclear.
It’s discouraging that Morris has compiled 13 minutes so far this preseason, and he wasn’t overly impressive during summer league, but the kid can play.
Morris wrapped up his college career as the Big 12’s all-time leader in offensive rating and offensive win shares. A starter for 121 games at Iowa State, the 6-foot-3 guard can both score diversely and set up his teammates as effectively. As a senior, Morris averaged 16.4 points and 6.2 assists per game, shooting 47/38/80 in the process.
Also, incredibly important for a point guard, Morris might be the best in his class at protecting the basketball. In his career, Morris averaged just 1.4 turnovers per 40 minutes.
The opportunity doesn’t appear to be there, but Morris has a great resume and seems ready to play professionally. If he gets the chance, don’t be surprised if he fits in seamlessly with this Nugget offense.