Who is 2023’s Second Round Sleeper?

    Sometimes players come in the form of top talents, picked high in the draft. Other times they come from second-round picks that teams use to fill out their roster. If you look at recent NBA champions, they all have gotten contributions from second-rounders.

    It’s no secret that 2023 Finals MVP Nikola Jokic (2014, pick 41) has become arguably the best second-round pick ever. But the Nuggets aren’t champions without the contributions of Bruce Brown (2018, pick 42) off the bench. Golden State has won four championships since 2015, thanks in no small part to the role played by Draymond Green (2012, pick 35). Khris Middleton (2012, pick 39) helped lead the Milwaukee Bucks to a ring in 2021 as their primary perimeter scorer. With the 2023 NBA Draft in the rearview, who could be a second-round sleeper this year? Someone becoming a player of Jokic’s caliber is impossible to foresee, but a few guys in this year’s second round have a path to being solid contributors.

    Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic celebrate the team's double-overtime win against the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 5 of their first-round playoff series.

    Photo Cred: CNN

    One second-rounder I have my eye on is Pepperdine wing Maxwell Lewis, was taken with the 40th pick and headed to the Los Angeles Lakers after a trade. The first thing that sticks out about Lewis is his frame. He is built like an ideal NBA wing in 2023, standing just over 6’6” without shoes and sporting a 7′ 0” wingspan. He is a little thin right now, weighing in at 207.2 pounds, but when his frame fills out, he’ll guard one through four on the court.

    Rob Pelinka Reveals Maxwell Lewis Was One Of Lakers’ Targets After Trading Up In Second Round Of 2023 NBA Draft

    Photo Cred: YardBarker

    His skillset shows what teams look for in the era of 3-and-D wings. Lewis is long and rangy and uses his frame to block shots from the weak side and disrupt passing lanes. He struggles to stay in front of quicker guards but has enough positive reps against all kinds of perimeter players to give me hope for his defensive upside as a stopper. 

    Maxwell Lewis NBA Draft profile, including the Pepperdine forward's combine results, measurements and scouting report.

    Photo Cred: Fan Duel

    Lewis hasn’t played a ton of wings with overwhelming size in the WCC but should be able to fill out his frame enough to handle stronger players. Offensively, Lewis showcased a versatile skill set that makes him a potential steal at this draft slot. He’s a shooter; Lewis has shown the ability to knock down threes off the catch and the dribble. He can spot up around the arc or shoot on the move off screens, a valuable trait for someone his size. 

    Lewis’ efficiency from outside did drop this past year. Defenses focused all their attention on him as Pepperdine’s most talented scorer. Regardless, Lewis has a pretty shot and can make jumpers in different contexts, which should translate to the next level. Lewis lacks the elite quickness and first step to be a great driver. His contact balance is solid, and he can finish at the rim with both hands. He showed play making ability and passing flashes but also turned the ball over a little too much. He will benefit from attacking scrambling defenses instead of operating as the primary ball handler.

    Photo Cred: Malibu Times 

    Of course, hitting as a second-round pick comes down to fit and opportunity. I think Lewis will have both of those things in Los Angeles. LeBron James and Anthony Davis are on the books for two more seasons. But beyond that, the Lakers require wing depth and shooting. Those are two things that Lewis can provide. Rui Hachimura is in the mix for 2023-24 and was a critical part of Los Angeles’ playoff rotation. Jarred Vanderbilt will be back at leas tone year, but he hurts the Lakers’ spacing when on the court.

    In the long run, Los Angeles will be looking for guys to surround Davis with as LeBron enters the twilight years of his career, and Lewis’ skillset should compliment the big man very well. Obviously, there is a lot left to be decided in free agency, and we will see what happens with D’Angelo Russell and especially Austin Reaves, but neither guy helps the Lakers on the wing. With LeBron and AD taking such a large chunk of the salary cap, the Lakers will need cheap contributors if they want to make another deep playoff run this year. Lewis has the skills to fill that role for LA early in his career.

    Troy Finnegan
    Troy Finnegan
    My name is Troy Finnegan and I am a senior studying journalism at the University of Colorado Boulder. I am originally from Broomfield, CO and love to ski, hike, and play golf in my free time. The sports I will be covering are football, basketball, baseball, tennis, and golf.

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