As was discussed in our Roundtable about who our least favorite potential Laker would be, I am not a fan of Marcus Smart. I'm not sure I would be a fan of him being on my team, I don't think I would enjoy rooting for him, and I don't plan on hoping for him to succeed in the NBA. However, given the Lakers' draft position with the #7 pick, there is a definite possibility that they might consider drafting Smart in that spot.
Objectively, I don't think this would be a bad draft pick, and I'll explain why, along with the strengths, weaknesses, and other elements of Marcus Smart in this prospect profile.
Let's start off with the elephant in the room, and the problem that any team might have with evaluating Marcus Smart: he's a dreadful long-range shooter. He finished his tenure as a college player shooting 29.5% from three, which is less than adequate. The main problem, however, was that he still shot them at the fairly high volume of 5.6 attempts per 40 minutes, despite it being fairly obvious that it was his primary weakness. More often than not, a team's strategy to guarding Smart was to let him shoot, and he sometimes shot his team out of a game. Perhaps the most crucial key to Smart's development is if he can find a coach that will get him to understand that he often hurts the team when he jacks up threes, and that he is better when looking to attack the rim, draw fouls, and create for others. Which leads me to the reasons I'm decently high on him as a pro prospect.
Here's the thing: he's pretty solid to great at just about everything else. Despite being a bad shooter that often chucked, he was a pretty efficient offensive player, especially his last season.
One of his primary strengths, perhaps the primary strength of Smart, is his ability to drive. He's built like an ox, and he often seemed unstoppable when he was putting his head down and driving to the lane. He was very good at drawing fouls (more on that later), creatively finding ways to score around the paint, and dishing off to others. It speaks to this strength that this year, despite his bad shooting, he still was able to post a 55.2 TS%. For reference, this was almost identical to Duke's Jabari Parker and only a little bit behind Kansas' Andrew Wiggins. This was due to his fairly absurd 9.9 free throws per 40 minutes and his consistency in making them (75.1% career free throw shooter).
His distributing was also good. Smart averaged 5.8 assists per 40 minutes, and had a turnover rate of 14.0%, which is very solid, considering his role. I think the tools are there to be a solid option as an initiator of an NBA offense, if the maturity comes and the coaching gets through to him.
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Roundtable: Our least favorite draftees
The Lakers are locked into the seventh-overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. We discuss who we'd be least happy with on draft night.
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As stated previously, Smart is huge for a point guard. Smart's height is adequate at 6'3.25, and he weighed in at the combine at 227 pounds. For comparison, Smart has over 30 pounds on Dante Exum despite being around 2.5 inches shorter, and it's a fairly muscular 30 pounds. Smart posted a solid 36.0 inch max vertical leap as well, and has an impressive wingspan for his height at 6'9.25 (1/4 of an inch less than Exum). Despite being bulky, Smart also is very quick, posting some of the best agility and sprint times at the combine. In short, Smart should be a physical force compared to nearly every point guard in the league, and should likely never be overwhelmed in that facet.
Smart is a good defender. ESPN's Fran Fraschilla, who covers the Big 12 as frequently as anybody, said at times that he believed Smart was the best defender in the conference this season. While I disagree (and think it was pretty clearly Andrew Wiggins), Smart definitely was in the discussion from what I observed. He is a fairly aware, aggressive, and physical defender, in addition to being a very willing and energetic one. Of particular note were his 3.5 steals per 40 minutes. He should be able to compete on the defensive end in the NBA, something that seems to be vastly overlooked when evaluating prospects lately.
This would be the main reason that Smart doesn't have many fans outside of Stillwater. Of course, the main incident that is well known was when he shoved a fan at Texas Tech near the game's conclusion. Smart was suspended three games for this, and Oklahoma State lost all three games that he sat out. It's very possible that the fan said some awful things to provoke Smart, but it likely was an indication of his emotional maturity at this point in his life that he was not able to let it go. Apart from this, there were several examples that drove me sorta nuts watching him, whether it be kicking a chair in disgust at a foul call, getting into whiny spats with referees, or on a more personal note for me, doing a back flip center court in Allen Fieldhouse when Oklahoma State beat Kansas (okay, not really that bad, but we weren't fans of him around here after that). More specifically, though, there was a particular portion of Smart's antics that made a lot of people upset, and led to open mocking of him.
Yes, flopping. Marcus Smart is perhaps the worst, most frequent, and most egregious flopper I have ever seen on the collegiate level of basketball. He would flop whenever the opportunity presented itself in a contest.
He would flop with the ball.
He would flop on defense.
He would flop on the baseline.
He would flop to get a fragrant elbow call.
He would flop on ... well, I don't exactly know what he's doing here.
Sometimes, he would flop when the game was secure for seemingly no reason at all.
You get the point.
In response to questions about his flopping, Smart usually would dismiss it with the notion that everyone does it. But, thankfully, no one does it quite like Smart. I'm not sure if this is something that NBA teams should actually consider when evaluating prospects, but I think it's something that fans want to know, and in this case, it's bad for Smart. No one wants to root for a flopper. It leads to tricking referees, then sometimes not getting the benefit of the doubt, open ridicule on social media (and likely from Jeff Van Gundy, if he's still broadcasting next year), fines, and often leads to fans and team broadcasters ignoring it. I can't tell you how annoying it is to listen to the Houston television broadcast and have them criticize opposing teams for flopping, yet make zero mention of it when James Harden flops his ass off. But I digress. His flopping is one of the main reasons that it would be more difficult to root for Marcus Smart.
So, what are we to make of all this? Smart is still an intriguing prospect, mainly due to him being fairly good at most aspects of the game. The shooting is obviously the primary concern for him going forward as a player, and might scare teams off, and his antics and emotional maturity might raise a few questions.
All that said, I don't think it would be a bad pick at #7 for the Lakers, but I'm hoping that it doesn't happen. I don't want to have to like Marcus Smart.
By the way, I'm new here. My name is Tom Fehr. In addition to SS&R, I write for SBNation's Kansas blog, Rock Chalk Talk. You can follow me on Twitter @TJFsports.
Let me know what you guys think. Would you want the Lakers to draft Marcus Smart? Do you think you could root for him more easily than I could? If you want an alternate take on Smart, with plenty of tape, I recommend this scouting video from Draft Express.