Sophomores are Trending Up: The Cream of the Crop

Their rookie year in the rear view mirror, the 2014 draft class entered their second season with a different kind of anticipation. The speed of the game was no longer a mystery. The defenses and expectations, the travel, the sleep schedule, the back-to-back games, coaches, teammates and the media were no longer a blur. Summer was rest but also work on their game time so the second season would be more productive.

Only three lottery picks made the playoffs their first year, Marcus Smart, Doug McDermott and Jabari Parker; Parker was injured. For the rest of the class on losing teams, April ended their NBA introduction. The best was yet to come. Or, so they hoped.

The second season for the best players in the 2014 draft class was like the first season, many did not make the playoffs. The secret about the draft is that the most skilled players going to the worst teams often have a 3-4 year wait for the playoffs. But that’s not even the point. Did they work on their game? How did they improve? Where do they rank at their position?

The best second year players in 2015-16:

Andrew Wiggins (#1 pick Cleveland, traded to Minnesota): The Rookie of the Year had to work on his perimeter game, particular 3-point shooting. He was moved from small forward to shooting guard and he had a 20.7 point year. He had more talent on his team because of the arrival of Karl-Anthony Towns, which made Wiggins life a little easier. He’s not a strong rebounder yet, 3.6 per game and his defense took a step back but he oozes offensive talent, even if his 3-point shooting is miserable. Points: 20.7  True Shooting Percentage: 54.3%  PER: 16.5  Offensive Rating: 106  Defensive Rating: 113  Real Plus-Minus (SG) Rank: 44

Rodney Hood (#23 pick, Utah): The shooting guard from Duke had a breakout year, 14.5 points. He is one of the best defenders in this class, a 6-8 wing able to guard players on the perimeter. And he is a good three point shooter at 36%. He struggled late with the pressure to perform and couldn’t make shots, a growing pains lesson as the Jazz came up short. Points: 14.5  True Shooting Percentage: 54.2%  PER: 14.1  Offensive Rating: 109 Defensive Rating: 107 Real Plus-Minus (SG) Rank: 12

Aaron Gordon (#4 pick, Orlando): A season of injuries suffocated his rookie year and his second year was a glimpse of Aaron Gordon’s potential, not including his dunking skills. His free throw shooting is pretty bad but he was the best defensive player in the draft because of his athleticism. He only played 23 minutes a game in 2015-16. He’s not a stretch four, no three point shooting talent. As explosive as he is, he should be more of a shot blocker. Points: 9.2   True Shooting Percentage: 54.1%.  PER: 17.0.  Offensive Rating: 114  Defensive Rating: 105    Real Plus-Minus (PF) Rank: 25

Jordan Clarkson (#46 pick Washington, purchased by the Lakers): The second round pick in 2014 has answered the questions about his ability to score against NBA starters. Clarkson had the second highest scoring average of the second year players. He is a tough rebounding guard but his defense is awful. A restricted free agent in the off-season, he should get paid big. Points: 15.5  True Shooting Percentage: 51.6%   PER: 14.3  Offensive Rating: 103  Defensive Rating: 114   Real Plus-Minus (SG) Rank: 57

Elfrid Payton (#10 pick Philadelphia, traded to Orlando): The best point guard in the 2014 draft, he’s a throwback, a point guard who only wants to make others better. His 6.4 assists put him 12th in the league, tied with Kyle Lowry. But his free throw shooting was horrible at 56% which is unacceptable for a point guard. Points: 10.7   True Shooting Percentage: 47.8%   PER: 13.9   Offensive Rating: 100   Defensive Rating: 108.  Real Plus-Minus (PG) Rank: 34

Zach LaVine (#13 pick, Minnesota): The pressure was on LaVine, the most athletic member of this draft class, to be more than a dunker and he delivered with 14 points and 3 assists in 28 minutes. He is part of the T-Wolves big three and provides them perimeter scoring and athleticism. His defense is pretty awful but he is a skilled 3-point shooter, 38.9%, and is a willing passer. Points: 14.0   True Shooting Percentage: 54.8%   PER: 14.3  Offensive Rating: 104  Defensive Rating: 112   Real Plus-Minus (PG) Rank: 74

Julius Randle (#7 pick, Lakers): His rookie year was bittersweet. One game, one broken leg. Rookie season over. He had a great comeback year to his second season. He led all second year players in rebounds. He tied with Anthony Davis for most rebounds among power forwards, 10.2. He was 10th in the league in rebounding. His offense needs massive work. He has no jump shot. Points: 11.3   True Shooting Percentage: 48.2%  PER: 13.9   Offensive Rating: 97   Defensive Rating: 108  Real Plus-Minus (PF) Rank: 96

Jabari Parker (#2 pick, Milwaukee): A bounce back from that bad ACL injury, Parker reminded everyone why he was a high draft pick in 2014. No, he doesn’t kill you with his explosiveness but he has a high I.Q. and understands the game. His 14.1 points and 5.1 rebounds are just the tip of the iceberg to what Parker can bring in his NBA career. His defense needs a lot of work as does his 25% three point shooting. Points: 14.1  True Shooting Percentage: 53.5%   PER: 14.8   Offensive Rating: 106   Defensive Rating: 111   Real Plus-Minus (PF) Rank: 93

Gary Harris (#19 pick Chicago, traded to Denver): A great year for the shooting guard where all his numbers went through the roof. His 30% shooting became 47% shooting. His 20% three point shooting became 35%. He played 32 minutes, 20 minutes more than his rookie year. He increased his scoring by 9 points. Points: 12.3   True Shooting Percentage: 56.6%   PER: 12.7   Offensive Rating; 110   Defensive Rating: 111  Real Plus-Minus (SG) Rank: 50

Doug McDermott (#11 pick Denver, traded to Chicago): Even as the Bulls are a team in flux because of the coaching change, McDermott showed glimpses of the Kyle Korver 2.0 hype.Under Fred Hoiberg, his minutes went up to 23 minutes a game and he dropped 45% of his shots. He’s a great three point shooter, 42%. He’s a poor rebounder and though he has toughness, his defense is apathetic. Points: 9.4   True Shooting Percentage: 56.1%   PER: 10.9   Offensive Rating: 110   Defensive Rating: 112   Real Plus-Minus (SF) Rank: 74