Marcus Smart, 6-foot-3 point guard, Oklahoma State
2013-14 stats: 18.0 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 4.8 APG, 2.9 SPG, .422 FG%
After returning to school following a stellar freshman campaign, eschewing a chance to be a high lottery pick, Smart endured mixed results as a sophomore. While he continued to produce outstanding all-around numbers and make a major impact on the floor, his shooting didn’t improve and the Dallas-area native had some negative, high-profile incidents, including shoving a courtside heckler. Still, his leadership qualities, physical tools, defensive prowess and overall aggressive style of play are greatly appealing to NBA personnel.
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Career highlights: As a freshman, the former McDonald’s All-American immediately became the Cowboys’ star, averaging 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and three steals per game and after several near triple-double performances, he was earned national freshman of the year, Big 12 player of the year, league all-defensive team and second team All-American recognition. Smart, who suffered a wrist injury at the tail end of the campaign, opted to return to Oklahoma State after a disappointing first-round exit in the NCAA Tournament, but over the summer, he was one of two college players to participate in USA Basketball’s Select Team mini-camp in Las Vegas and won a gold medal at the under-19 FIBA World Championships in Prague, also with USA Basketball. Smart’s sophomore year saw him achieve per-game averages of 18 points, 5.9 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.9 steals, with an early-season 39-point effort against Memphis highlighting the season and a three-game suspension after the aforementioned confrontation with a Texas Tech fan being the low point, though he still managed to once again be named a first team all-league and all-defensive choice.
Strengths: A rock-solid, freight train of a backcourt player, Smart thrives on the interior for a player of his size, as his rugged game and powerful frame allow him to be an excellent rebounder for his position, get to the free-throw line with regularity, defend bigger players and post up smaller defenders. Although he isn’t a prototypical point guard, Smart does have good playmaking ability, but he also has a knack for scoring, whether in transition or getting to the basket in half-court situations. Defensively, his lateral quickness, strength, ability to pressure the ball, solid athleticism, good length and versatility makes him capable of guarding multiple positions.
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Weaknesses: After functioning at small forward and really being a jack of all trades in high school, Smart is still making somewhat of an adjustment to being a floor general, with ball security and shot selection being his primary issues at the position, and some observers regarding him as more of a combo guard. His outside shooting is also problematic, as he seemed to make strides in that aspect of his game early in his sophomore season, then regressed as the campaign went on. While Smart’s strength will help him on the next level, he won’t be able to rely upon bullying opposing players the way he did in college, meaning his skill set must continue to be diversified.
Draft projection: A candidate to be drafted anywhere between Boston at No. 4 and Sacramento at No. 8, Smart is expected to make an immediate impact wherever he lands. Although he’ll have to adjust to being more of a traditional point guard, Smart’s physique, assertiveness and ability to make plays on both ends of the floor should enable him to be a productive, versatile player from the outset of his career. If he can improve his jumper, Smart has a chance at stardom down the road, but even if he remains shaky as a shooter, his intangibles will make a valuable long-term starter in the league, particularly because his skill set allows different types of guards to be paired with him in the backcourt.