Second-round picks hope to defy odds
ORLANDO, FLA. >> Just two weeks into his NBA career, Orlando Magic rookie center Stephen Zimmerman isn't quite sure how he will fit in with his new team.
What the 19-year-old, who was taken by the Magic in the second round of last month's draft, knows is he is willing to do whatever is required while sitting behind the veteran lineup of big men that now includes Nikola Vucevic and recent acquisitions Serge Ibaka and Bismack Biyombo. It will be a lot more watching and learning early on.
"I know that they have a lot of good big guys coming in and right now I basically have to play my role being the young guy and learn from the older guys and going out there every day in practice and getting better," said Zimmerman, who spent just one season at UNLV.
"Obviously me being a basketball player and a competitor I want to play as much as I can, but I know I have to wait my turn and whenever Coach decides to put me in and let me go I have to show what I've got."
Such is the existence of a second rounder where little is guaranteed but with some tenacity, luck and willingness to play your role you can become a valuable and inexpensive asset.
The 6-foot-11 Zimmerman is one of many looking to beat the odds to become the next Draymond Green or Paul Millsap, a second-round gem.
In addition to Zimmerman, potential impact second-round picks from this year's group include Phoenix Suns point guard Tyler Ulis, Los Angeles Clippers forward Cheick Diallo and Detroit Pistons small forward Michael Gbinije.
"I think it's going well," Zimmerman said following the second game during the Orlando NBA Summer League. "A lot of people have been saying how big of a difference it is and obviously it is real physical and fast paced, but I don't think I'm lacking anything so it's been good."
New York Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek, a second-round pick of the Phoenix Suns out of Iowa State in 1986, doesn't believe the perception of what a second-rounder can bring to an NBA team has changed much over the years.
"I think the second round has always been the same, that's a guy that has a chance to make the team, but has to show a team what kind of role you can play for them," said Hornacek, who enjoyed a 14-year NBA career as a shooting guard, primarily with the Utah Jazz and Suns.
"It's always an uphill battle for second-rounders, but there are a lot of great ones that have made it."
But longtime Houston Rockets scout BJ Johnson believes the number of second-rounders who will make an impact will continue to increase in the current climate.
They are usually upper classmen who are more mature and seasoned than their first-round counterparts who are most often drafted on potential more so than for their body of work.
"The first-round guys don't always hit right away, but they are talented but may have other issues," Johnson said. "Usually the second-round guys are more mature, so if you do your homework you can get young good players. When they come in their focus is different and to me that is the biggest difference."
Johnson said it also comes down to landing in the right situation. Green, for instance, was drafted by a team that uses a lot of motion and allows him to get the ball in a lot of different areas as a power forward. There were questions about if Green had the size to play a post position coming out of Michigan State in 2012.
He is now an NBA All-Star and a critical part of the Warriors.
"Draymond could have gone somewhere else and wouldn't be Draymond," Johnson said. "He could have gone somewhere where he is playing behind a slow team. What if Draymond had went to San Antonio? He wouldn't be shooting threes and running around. He fits that team.
"Then Draymond is one of those guys who have the ingredients to get better because he is tough and he plays both ends.
"Plus he is a senior and he has been through the wars so he is seasoned. A lot of those first round guys are 18 or 19 years old."
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