Tuesday, April 22, 2014

2014 Draft Scouting: 1st Round - Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart raised a few eyebrows when he chose to return to school for his sophomore season last spring.  A likely 2nd overall pick in 2013 with an almost certain lock to go in the top three, Smart decided to return and work on his game at the college level.  Twelve months later, Smart has done little to change scouts' and fans' opinions of him, for better or worse, and is slated to go in the 5-10 range in a much stronger draft class.  He's still a huge body with great athleticism and playmaking ability.  He's also still a questionable outside shooter with some growing up to do.  The question marks around Marcus Smart are what will keep him firmly outside of the top tier of prospects in this year's draft, as he's absolutely an elite talent.

Statistically speaking, Smart made reasonable improvements to his game in his sophomore season.  Smart used 29.2% of Oklahoma State's possessions in 2013-14, as compared to 27.2% in his freshman year.  With a bigger role, Smart still managed to improve his TS% to 55.2% (53.2 in '12-'13) thanks to an increase in free throw rate and conversion on two-point attempts.  Smart improved his two-point percentage to 51.4% as a sophomore after converting 46.5% as a freshman and also managed a Free Throw Rate around 66%.  Smart also improved his non-scoring numbers, upping his Assist Rate by over three percentage points and decreasing his Turnover Rate by four points.  The only area that saw a decline in Smart's game in 2013-14 was his FT% which decreased from 77% to 72%.  For all of the negative talk surrounding Smart's game this season, he produced at a very high level.  Let's take a closer look at what Smart brings to the table, and what he can improve upon...

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That clip was from Smart's sheer domination of Memphis in the early part of the season.  Smart dropped 39 points on the Tigers in that game, on 11-21 (5-10 3P) shooting, along with 4 assists, 4 rebounds and 5 steals.  I picked this clip for two reasons: first, it shows how Smart can take over a game at both ends of the floor.  He often fed OSU's offense by creating fast break opportunities with steals and blocks.  The second reason I picked this clip is because it showcases parts of Smart's game that I think are under-appreciated by most fans.  Those parts are that he's aggressive on the block and that he moves well without the ball.  Until Smart can force defenders to respect his jump shot, having a post game will help him have something to rely on when better defenders are stopping him from slashing to the rim.  Smart is more than just a big body in the post too, as he shows good footwork on post moves.  Similarly, his ability to move without the ball adds versatility to his game, which should allow him to play unlimited minutes off the ball in the NBA, if need be, and somewhat minimizes his lack of a three point shot.

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The perceived downsides to Smart's game, outside shooting and turnover problems, shouldn't limit his upside too much in the NBA.  Smart's shooting form isn't majorly flawed, so he may develop into a respectable jump shooter.  While Smart averaged a seemingly high 2.6 TOPG, his Turnover Rate did not reflect a similar notion, at merely 14%.  While many scouts and fans seem to think Smart has problems with turnovers, I disagree.  He should be able to do a good job of taking care of the ball at the next level.

Smart is also perceived to be a plus defender, which agrees with his combination of size, strength and athleticism.  Smart averaged right around 3 SPG in both of his years at OSU, showing that at the very least, he can make plays on the defensive end of the floor.  Being a two way player from day one is hard to do in the NBA, but it surely seems that Smart has all the tools necessary to be one.  His 6'8 wingspan will allow him to bother shooters and play passing lanes consistently.  Smart is an aggressive defender who will need less tweaks to his defensive game than the average rookie.

With all of the positives to Smart's game and a perceived lack of glaring weaknesses, you would think that Marcus Smart would be a great pick for the Pistons.  While I would love for Detroit to pick Smart at #8, I don't think he would be the ideal fit due to his lack of outside shooting.  If the Pistons are going to build around Drummond and Monroe/Smith, they need to follow the Dwight Howard model and surround their post presences with outside shooting.  If he were to end up in Detroit, Smart could play off the ball in a lineup with Brandon Jennings due to his size and defensive acumen.  However, playing him for long stretches off the ball diminishes the value that his size advantage brings at the PG position.  Popular opinion is that Smart will be gone by the time the Pistons (likely) pick at 8, but if he is still around, the Pistons may decide to take him.  Players with Smart's talent level don't usually drop to the 8th slot in the draft and the Pistons could always use an upgrade at PG.  Drop your opinion about Smart's game or his fit with the Pistons in the comment section...

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