Friday, May 30, 2014

The Lakers are looking at Marcus Smart with the 7th pick

The 7th pick in this years' draft is giving me
a headache. After the top-3 of Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Joel Embiid (in no particular order), which is basically chiseled in stone already (though, again, in no particular order), then the draft gets really, really interesting. After that, nobody seems to have any idea who gets selected for the rest of the top-5, let alone of the top-10. So far, the top choices to fill out those remaining 7 slots are: Dante Exum, Noah Vonleh, Julius Randle, Marcus Smart, Zach LaVine, Doug McDermott and Aaron Gordon. And so far, it's looking like Exum and Vonleh will round out the Top-5, leaving the Lakers with two very intriguing options.

Let's ignore McDermott, LaVine, Randle and Gordon, I'll get to them in a later piece. Let's focus on Smart, a guy who was supposed to be sure-fire Top-5 picks until Exum and Vonleh started gaining some traction. Ultimately, Smart is very talented, and there's always the chance that he ends up going in the Top-5, leaving the Lakers with one of Exum or Vonleh (a problem that I'm happy to have). Anyways, here's a quick scouting report on the one of the players who will be strongly considered come draft day:

Smart is such a strangely frustrating and completely exciting player to cover. He is a pretty physically gifted athlete, being, by far, the strongest guard in the draft. He is listed as 6'3'', and weighing in at 227 pounds, so he can easily play both of the guard positions. Despite being such a big guard, he has very good quickness and he uses that and his superior strength to get to the rim and then routinely finishes through contact. He plays hard on the defensive end, and has good lateral quickness that combines well with his massive wingspan of 6'8'' that helped him produce 3 steals per game at the college level, and helped him become one of the better perimeter defenders in the draft.

He has been very aggressive on driving to the rim, and as a result, he usually draws multiple defenders with him on any given drive; he also creates a lot of contact and reaches the free throw line at a very high rate because of his strength. Smart still has the vision to see which teammates were left open as a result of the help defense, and he usually can give a pass that is on target, despite all of the defensive attention. Smart has great offensive awareness and will usually look to involve his teammates.

Most of Smart's negatives are things that can be worked on: his offensive decision making needs some work. For example: Smart only shot 42% from the field last season, despite shooting over 51% from two point range. It was his willingness to take the three point shot (which he shot at a 29% clip) that proved to be his doom. I would hope that is corrected at the pro level, lest he become the guard version of Josh Smith; ultra-talented, and good at a lot of things that aren't three pointers, yet he can't stop jacking up threes. Smart's jump shot isn't very reliable, and he could use some work with his mechanics to help him hit on a more consistent basis. Opponents at the NBA level will find it easier to cover Smart's dribble drives to the rim if they can sag off of him because of his inconsistent jump shot. Smart needs to cut down on the turnovers and take better shot attempts, both of which can be fixed with some experience.

And then, of course, there is the Texas Tech incident, which got him suspended for 3 games. Ugly stuff.

Overall, Smart is a very talented athlete, a very hard nosed, capable defensive player and a player who can penetrate a defense with the best of them. Smart has an inconsistent jumper, and his intensity can sometimes get the best of him, but he easily holds his own against the rest of the Top-7. You could even argue that the Top-4 were set before the Texas Tech incident, with Smart taking that distant fourth place behind the Big 3 of draft prospects this year.