Mike D’Antoni loves his point guards. The position the Lakers currently hold a projected 8th spot in the lottery, and it’s possible the Marcus Smart could slip to that pick.
Who is Marcus Smart? He’s a 6’2″ point guard with a 6’8″ wingspan, but with the size of a running back. At 220lbs., he’s built like a brick wall, but it doesn’t seem to hinder his athleticism. He adds strength and power to a position known for quickness and speed. This gives him a lot of different looks offensively, and gives him a few advantages on the defensive end.
Athletically, he’s not a traditional point guard. He’s explosive to the basket when he has a running start, and is often caught as a target of lob passes. He has an average first step off-the-dribble, where he uses his strength to bump defenders on the drive to gain positioning to the basket. What is unusual about him, his how quick he is laterally while carrying so much strength. This allows him to be an absolute ballhawk on defense and force turnovers at an unusually high rate.
Offensively, his game at the NBA level will revolve around how polished his jumpshot is. He has improved his technique and mechanics drastically from his freshman year. The shooting stroke comes off more cleanly, the release point is proper, and his shot selection is also improved. He’s now able to get hot from the perimeter, something that an afterthought during his freshman year. More importantly, he has a pull-up jumpshot off of the drive. He’s able to stop on a dime and pull up comfortably from 8′-15′. This bodes well for his NBA potential. He doesn’t have a polished floater yet, but unless he’s better able to change directions on the drive, he’ll need to shoot over taller defenders. He has some issues exploding to the hoop in traffic, and can get caught trying to shoot over defenders from a stand-still position. He needs screens to free himself into the painted area. Unlike other point guards, he also has a post game. He’s able to use a drop-step, a spin move, or even a quick running hook shot around the painted area. He’s able to get free throws from drawing so much contact in the paint. NCAA defenses respect him as a threat from the post, and he’s able to find the open man every time. He’s not the purest point guard in terms of passing, but he is unselfish. Pick and roll execution needs to be improved, but he excels at places most point guards don’t.
Defensively, he can remind older NBA fans what point guard defense is. Guys like Derek Harper used to press point guards full-court, and acquire steals from man-defense alone. Marcus Smart has that ability now. More impressively, he has quick hands, quick feet, tied in with wingspan. Not only is he able to deny dribble penetration, but he’s also able to rake the ball away from careless ball-handlers, or rip the ball away from opponents attacking the basket from team help situations. His strength may allow him to defend smaller shooting guards too. Need help against the Miami Heat? He can switch off of Mario Chalmers and onto Dwyane Wade, where he can compete in terms of size and athleticism, and give his team a fighting chance. He would be a huge defensive asset at a critical position.
Overall, he’s a vocal leader from the point guard position who chose to stay at Oklahoma State, knowing he has a few opportunities to work on. He’s a self-made player, a guy who can come it right away and make a positive impact on the floor, gain respect from veterans, and be a leader off-the-floor as well. There aren’t many prospects with his level of maturity and leadership, and those intangible qualities are tied to teams with championship wins. He may not be a #1 or even a #2 option on offense, but he simply knows how to win games. He may not be the perfect point guard for Mike D’Antoni’s offense because his jumpshot isn’t as refined and he doesn’t have the outright speed of Eric Bledsoe or John Wall, but he’s a point guard that Phil Jackson would respect and value on and off-the-floor.