Marcus Smart is a lottery pick player that chose to stay in college. Blessed with great physical attributes, he looks like a running back more than a point guard. Fortunately, he’s worked on a lot of skills, and may be around for the Laker pick in the upcoming draft.
Smart stands at 6’2″ (w/o shoes) with a 6’8″ wingspan. At 220lbs., the running back comparison holds. He’s chiseled and in shape. Surprisingly, he compares similarly to Derrick Rose in terms of height and wingspan, 6’1.5″ (w/o shoes) with a 6’8″ wingspan. What Rose doesn’t have is the brute strength. Needless to say, Smart has excellent size at the point guard position.
Athletically, Smart is a different kind of point guard. Most NBA point guards are blessed with a very quick first step, speedy down the floor, and seemingly able to jump over defenders at the rim. There are few exceptions to that rule. Smart on the other hand, has an average first step. What he excels at is bumping his defender and keeping him at his size under dribble penetration. He was a tremendous vert when going for lob passes off-the-ball. In traffic, the vert doesn’t seem as obvious. Still, he has a tremendous motor, excellent lateral quickness, and uncanny strength at the point guard position.
Offensively, his game is slowly revolving around his jumpshot. He has a reputation for attacking the rim, but NCAA defenses are adjusting to it this season. His crossover isn’t deliberate, and with an average first step, it’s difficult for him to blow by the defender. Once he meets someone at the rim, it’s not easy for him to finish in traffic. That can be easily compensated with a pull-up jumpshot in the painted area, or a floater. Both of those weapons are in his arsenal. He’s also an underrated post player. He has surprising footwork from the low to mid-post area and operates like any other skilled bigman. Playmaking is an opportunity for him as well. He has great weapons around him in Markel Brown and LeBryan Nash, but the assist-to-turnover ratio doesn’t reflect great playmaking skills. His assist-to-turnover ratio is 4.3 to 2.7, not exactly outstanding, but decent. Sometimes there’s tunnel-vision when he’s attacking the hoop. Still, passing is a skill that he has shown tremendous improvement in, and will continue to do so. Otherwise, one may think he’s a shooting guard playing the point guard position, and that shows in the way he plays off the ball, utilizes screens for a pull-up jumpshot, or disregard for shot selection to shoot in rhythm offensively.
Defensively, he’s a standout. He’s the point guard defender that the Lakers needed during their championship years. Derek Fisher was great, but imagine him with a 6’8″ wingspan, elite lateral ability, mitts for hands, and stronger. Man-defense is excellent, and he has the motor to harass opposing point guards for 3/4 court to force turnovers. He’s also a tremendous rebounder for a point guard, and this gets Oklahoma State into transition much more quickly. Given his wingspan and strength, he has the ability to fight screens at will, keep up laterally to deny dribble penetration, and switch onto shooting guards if necessary. He averages 2.3 steals per game, and this is a directly NBA-level translatable skill.
Overall, he’s a great lottery prospect. His reputation at the NCAA level has taken a hit since his incident with the Texas Tech fan, but he’s been praised since he was a freshman about being a great leader. He sounds more mature than his age indicates and knows how to bring together a team. Admittedly, he needs to control his emotions better. There have been a few technical fouls that have been called that he has disagreed with. He lost his patience altogether against Texas Tech and got suspended for three games. Sometimes his patience runs thin when it comes to bad calls or something crosses the line with him, but I’m not concerned. He has great pride in himself and his team, and is willing to stand up for it. Remember when Nick Young got fouled and no teammate bothered to pick him up? Instead Nick Young got surrounded by Phoenix Suns players, almost caught in the middle of a fight. That’s not exactly the kind of thing that’ll happen around Smart, which is a reflection of him as a teammate.
Talentwise, he’s a great piece to have. He’s great off-the-floor, working on his game. He’s great with his teammates and makes sure they’re all on the same page. He’s exactly the kind of talent that can get a playoff team over the hump. Unfortunately, the Lakers aren’t that playoff team.