Position/Stats: Point Guard/18.1 pts, 4.6 reb, 6.2 ast, 1.9 stl
Dennis Smith Jr. might be the best athlete in this draft, and that’s saying something. Despite a short and bulky frame, Smith Jr. possesses the explosiveness, athleticism, and strength that has propelled him towards the top of most draft boards. He has flashed potential of his ability to score at all three levels. Although the shooting mechanics can be inconsistent, Smith Jr. thrives around the hoop and in transition. He has tremendous body control and the ability to change speeds allows him to blow past defenders, while a strong frame allows him to finish through contact.
In the halfcourt, he has flashed signs of being an effective in isolations and off the pick and roll. His shiftiness, advanced handles, the use of stepbacks, hesitations, and pullups demonstrate his potential to take the defender off the dribble. For the most part, he has made the right decisions as the ball handler on the pick and roll, and has been impressive when a big switches onto him. His passing is an underrated too; he is capable of finding the open man, especially off of a drive to the hoop. Defensively, natural tools like quick hands, feet and the ability to bulldoze through screens has propelled him.
Although he is highly skilled, he lacks the traits many teams look for in a leader. He is often passive, and he has displayed frustration with his NC State teammates multiple times during the disappointing season. He also has himself to blame for NC State’s misfortunes, as he was extremely inconsistent at times, especially down the stretch when he averaged 11.0 ppg during his final three games. Although freak athleticism covers for it, his 6’3 height and wingspan is short and a slight disadvantage in the modern NBA. There is also a concern about his injury history after he tore his ACL before his senior year in High School.
Projected Range: 4-9
Despite a hot start to the season, that sparked consideration for the first pick, Smith Jr’s stock has fallen, dropping him to the fourth best Point Guard in the class. In almost any other draft, Smith Jr. is the top point guard. Unfortunately, by most likely having three Point Guards picked ahead of him, Smith Jr. could fall if teams are looking to fill other positional needs. In contrast, Smith Jr. has the perfect blend of athleticism and skill that impresses at combines and workouts, leading to a possible surge ahead in the draft. Overall, Smith Jr. is the biggest question mark out of the top batch of prospects, and it will be interesting to see where he lands up.
Best Fit: Sacramento Kings
Smith Jr. can help many franchises, but based on where their pick will likely land, and team needs, he fits nicely with the Kings. A backcourt of Smith Jr. and Hield provides a mix of shooting and finishing that has the potential to become deadly. The ability to contribute on both ends nicely fits the young trio of Hield, Cauley-Stein, and Labissiere who still need a Point Guard to round out their core. Smith Jr. would be asked to be a main contributor, but wouldn’t have all the weight pegged in him which is likely ideal based off his lone season at NC State.