The 2017 Draft was arguably one of the deepest draft classes in years. Many players who were touted as first-round locks slipped through to the second round, where an excited GM was ready to pounce. Although this NBA season is still very young, a number of these second-round picks have already made a name for themselves. Here are the top three, early season contenders for Second-Round Rookie of the Year.
3. Dwayne Bacon (CHA)
In his two years at Florida State, Dwayne Bacon was one of the best offensive players in all of the ACC. He led his team in scoring both years and was the go-to guy when the ‘Noles needed a bucket. What turned NBA teams off Bacon as a possible first-round selection, however, was his poor defensive effort, lack of fundamentals and streaky shooting. While much of these problems still exist, Bacon has nonetheless proven to be a vital piece for this season's Charlotte Hornets team, averaging 22.9MPG (12th amongst rookies).
So far this season, Bacon had had three double-digit scoring nights, including an 18-point burst against the Spurs in San Antonio. His shooting percentages aren’t great, but the Hornets are hoping that he’ll find some rhythm sooner rather than later. As of now though, the fact that he is playing decent minutes for a side that is not terrible, is a great sign.
2. Semi Ojeleye (BOS)
Coming into the draft, SMU’s Semi Ojeleye was a dark horse lottery selection. He put up some big-time numbers – 19PPG, 6.9RPG – in his junior season with the Mustangs, proving to be one of the best 3-and-D prospects in the draft. He also had one of the most ready-made NBA bodies in the entire class. When he fell all the way to pick #37, Danny Ainge was licking his lips and didn’t hesitate to make the selection.
Despite only playing just a tick over 14 minutes per game, and averaging just under 3 points per game, Ojeleye has been a crucial player in the Boston Celtics sizzling early season form. He knocks down shots when the team needs him to, he locks down just about everyone - 1 through 5 - that he faces, and, most importantly, he is doing it in the crunch.
He has well and truly become a part of the Brad Stevens machine. He knows what his job is and he goes out there and gets it done. He has already proven himself to be one of the steals of the entire draft according to sports betting fanatics.
1. Dillon Brooks (MEM)
Dillon Brooks was one of the best scorers in college basketball last season. His 16.1PPG on 53% shooting earned him the Pac-12 Player of the Year award, as well as a selection into the consensus second-team All-American. Unlike Ojeleye, Brooks wasn’t touted as a first-round-caliber player, so it was no surprise that he was still available when the Rockets – selecting for the Grizzlies - drafted him at #45.
What may come as a surprise, however, is how well he has been playing so far this season. Not only is he 7th in minutes per game for rookies with 29.0, but he is also 6th in steals per game (1.2) and 10th in points per game (9.4). This puts him above much higher-touted offensive players such as Josh Jackson, Malik Monk and Luke Kennard. While his three-point shot still isn’t quite there (27%), he’s still finding other ways to get involved offensively.
The most impressive thing about the numbers he is putting up, however, is that he is doing it on a good team. While the Grizzlies currently sit at .500, with a 7-7 record, it isn’t outrageous to suggest that they’re going to be a playoff team, and if Brooks keeps playing the way that he is, he is going to be a big factor in them getting there.