Every draft, there are always a few steals that are found in the late first and second round. This year was no exception, as a number of prospects fell down the draft for franchises to scoop up. The following list is composed of the biggest values considering the spot and team who selected them.
Nikola Jovic – Miami Heat
Jovic slotted at 16th on my Big Board, and the Miami Heat drafted him with the 27th pick. His desirable offensive skill set at 6’11” will immediately thrust him into big minutes, and I expect Jovic to be a key part of their bench. He can space the floor for Butler and Adebayo as a spot up shooter, or he can take his defender off the dribble and shoot over them. A lineup of Lowry, Herro, Butler, Jovic, and Adebayo would legitimately contain five guys who can operate as a facilitator. PJ Tucker is likely gone in free agency, so Miami will have a hole at power forward. Jovic fits perfectly with the Heat core, and he may end up starting for them come playoff time. Overall, the Heat drafted a potential All-Star with a late first rounder.
TyTy Washington Jr – Houston Rockets
Washington settled at 19th on my Big Board, but the Rockets snagged him with the 29th pick. At a minimum, Washington will lead the bench unit as the primary ball handler and playmaker. His cautious approach limits turnovers, and he can contribute off-ball as a spot up shooter. I don’t think Washington has the same ceiling as Jovic, but he can grow into a fringe All-Star who flirts with a double-double every night. If Kevin Porter Jr becomes too expensive or doesn’t fit with Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr, and Tari Eason, then the Rockets have insurance because of Washington’s presence. My NBA comparison for Washington was Jalen Brunson, who was drafted with the 33rd pick in the 2018. I think they will have similar career arcs, which would mean Houston got a steal here.
Jaden Hardy – Dallas Mavericks
I had Hardy as the 24th prospect, and Dallas managed to select him with pick number 37. Hardy struggled with efficiency in the G League, but his tight handle and ability to get to his spots is tantalizing. He is an excellent isolation scorer who can create his own shot without any help from screens or passes. Hardy thrived on catch and shoot opportunities, so Dallas can play him next to Luka Doncic without any problem. His defense needs work, but it’s difficult to find an isolation scorer of his caliber in the second round. As a rookie, he will be a scoring burst off the bench for a Mavericks team striving to repeat their Western Conference Finals berth. If Hardy optimally develops, he will give Dallas their own version of Jordan Poole.
EJ Liddell – New Orleans Pelicans
Liddell was drafted 41st overall by the Pelicans, and he ranked 27th on my Big Board. He’s a good low post scorer who brings interior toughness. The Pelicans add an offensive rebound threat who consistently boxes out his man. Liddell also thrived scoring off the dribble, and his range extended out to the three-point line. Although he is somewhat undersized at 6’7”, he plays far bigger than his height. Liddell will be a solid backup power forward who brings versatile scoring to the second unit. With a roster full of unique talent, the malleable Pelicans can run out a number of different lineups for any occasion. Drafting a skilled power forward who competes on the glass and shoots the three at 41 is exceptional value. It’s improbable he becomes a fringe All-Star, but Liddell can be a solid starter on a contender.
Hugo Besson – Milwaukee Bucks
I thought Besson was going to be drafted in the early second round, but the Bucks swiped him with the last pick in this draft. He thrived for the New Zealand Breakers in the highly competitive National Basketball League (where he was teammates with 11th pick Ousmane Dieng). Besson is an advanced pick and roll ball handler who flourished taking contested shots off the dribble. He can space the floor as a three-point threat while running the bench unit. It’s rare to find a valuable bench guard with the last pick, but that is exactly what the Bucks have done here. This selection defines “minimal risk high reward”. If Besson acclimates to the NBA like I believe he will, then the Bucks can stop searching for a backup point guard.