Drafted by: Boston Celtics, No. 6 overall
School: Oklahoma State
Height/Weight: 6'3", 227 lbs
Age: 20 years old
Projected NBA Position: Combo Guard
Pro Comparison: Eric Bledsoe/Jarrett Jack
Twitter Handle: @smart_MS3
After two seasons starring at Oklahoma State, combo guard Marcus Smart seeks to bring his toughness and versatility to the NBA stage.
The two-way competitor had an impressive freshman campaign worthy of a one-and-done departure, but he decided to return for his sophomore season. While he didn't improve his draft stock in 2013-14 by leaps and bounds, he remains an appealing prospect due to his aggressive approach and athleticism.
Smart showed a willingness to run the point and distribute or attack the rim as a slasher. On defense, he corralled nearly every attacker who challenged him.
He has the look and the demeanor of a player who can bottle up the opponent's best playmaker while sparking a bunch of plays of his own on the other end.
|Statistics at Oklahoma State|
Smart only stands 6'2" without shoes, but nearly every other measurement is superb.
He has a 6'9.25" wingspan and a muscle-bound 227-pound physique, which will allow him to check shooting guards in addition to point men.
Athletically, he performed extremely well at the NBA Draft Combine, proving that he's capable of thriving amid the explosiveness of the NBA. His 36-inch vertical isn't jaw-dropping, but his lateral quickness is remarkable for someone who's 227 pounds.
Given his strength, quickness and innate aggressiveness, he'll be an imposing backcourt weapon for his coach.
Defensive Talent and Versatility
Smart shined on the defensive end at Oklahoma State, and he's arguably the best stopper in the entire 2014 draft class.
His aforementioned length and muscular frame are paired with exemplary footwork and a great feel for the game. Smart has a lockdown approach in one-on-one scenarios, and he shows excellent alertness and timing as a weak-side helper. The result was 3.5 steals per 40 minutes and a career defensive rating of 89.1.
You can tell his defensive instincts and great hands will translate:
There's not really anything to dislike about his defensive game. He has the foot speed and shiftiness to mark the best point guards in the league, and he also has the wingspan and bulk to stop most shooting guards.
Scoring is about to get much harder for playmakers around the NBA.
Scoring and Facilitating Aggressiveness
For most of his freshman and sophomore seasons, Smart was the leader of the Cowboys offense. He initiated from the point and also slashed from the wing or worked away from the ball.
As a primary ball-handler, he was always looking to attack and get to the rim. His speed and physical style of play allowed him to drive past the first line of a defense and toward the bucket. Once he got there, he absorbed contact and finished strong or used his passing instincts to find teammates.
Watch him use a pick-and-roll opportunity, turn it down, get into the lane and dish:
Smart isn't a pure pass-first point guard, as he loves to score (22 points per 40 minutes as a sophomore). However, his quarterback skills are solid enough to run the show in the NBA.
In some games, he might be aggressive to a fault, but NBA coaches have to love a guy who's willing to score when needed and play quarterback as well.
Leadership and Competitiveness
It might not be a tangible skill, but the "will to win" is certainly a big part of Smart's game.
Not only does he play hard on every possession of every game, but you can tell he's willing to compete in all of the little areas.
Did he suffer occasional poor body language? Yes. He even shoved an opposing fan in frustration. But NBA coaches and executives know that he's a good teammate, and he's someone who simply wants to win.
Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge said, per ESPNBoston.com's Chris Forsberg, that he likes players in Smart's mold: "I like his fire. I'd much rather try to calm a player down than try to light a fire under him."
The three biggest concerns surrounding Smart moving forward are his shooting accuracy, shot selection and mid-range handling.
He shot 29.9 percent from beyond the arc in 2014, and he also shot 36.3 percent on two-point jumpers, according to Hoop-Math.com.
Smart needs to polish his delivery a bit, but part of the problem is his shot selection and overall decision making. He was a little overconfident in his jumper at times, leading to 6.5 three-point attempts per 40 minutes.
As for the mid-range effectiveness, his creativity and ball-handling just isn't as tight or fluid as it could be. Nor is his mid-range jumper refined enough to pose a consistent threat. This might be the area that hinders his scoring ceiling the most.
Compared to most prospects in this upside-loaded draft class, Smart is more NBA-ready. He possesses a strong physique to handle combo-guard duties on both sides of the ball, and he's got the quickness and passing skills to execute as a playmaker.
Don't expect him to rack up a ton of points or assists as a rookie, however. He's not dynamic enough as a creator to carry a team or become an instant star. Nevertheless, he'll make enough plays while serving some of the best defense in the league.
If Smart can sharpen up his shooting skills and expand his handling repertoire, he could pair top-tier offense to go along with that elite defense.
Down the road, he could be one of the best combo guards in the league, thanks to his dual threat of passing and scoring. While he might not be an upper-echelon dime-dropper, he could eventually toss five to seven assists while operating as the second scoring option on his club.
Months ago, he drew more comparisons to James Harden and Dwyane Wade, but that's not really fair. A look at Eric Bledsoe is much more reasonable, and it's still quite exciting. Smart can bring that glove-like defense along with an attack-first approach on offense.
It's tough to say whether he'll flirt with All-Star status, but we believe he's going to be a highly productive starter on his team for years.
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