Had he opted to declare for the NBA Draft last season, there’s a good chance that Marcus Smart would have been one of the first two players picked. Instead, he remained at Oklahoma State in hopes of finding greater success in the NCAA tournament with the Cowboys. What followed was a turbulent season in which his poor shooting numbers did not improve, he got into an altercation with a fan and OSU’s postseason ended in early disappointment.
Still, even in a much deeper draft this summer, he remains a player with high lottery potential and a possibility for the Utah Jazz at No. 5.
The Jazz already have Trey Burke, who, despite shooting under 40 percent as a rookie, showed flashes of the heart and late-game heroics that made him the National POY at Michigan. Some would assess that he is their point guard of the future, but when your team has just completed a 25-win season, nobody is untouchable. Talent acquisition and upgrading when you can should be the modus operandi and there’s a lot to love about Smart.
Smart is built like a tank. At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, he should be able to body up on ones and twos at the next level. His size and penchant for being a disruptor on defense could make him a scintillating prospect for a Jazz team that was arguably the worst defensive team in the NBA at times last season. He has been a willing and more than capable defender throughout his college career and all signs point to more of the same as he transitions to the NBA.
Offensively, there are obvious question marks for Smart. Assuming the Jazz draft him while retaining Burke, there’s a good chance that he would have to spend some time at the off-guard spot to stay on the floor. As a 29.5 percent shooter from distance during his college career, it’s hard to imagine him providing the kind of floor spacing you need from somebody taking minutes at shooting guard. His shot selection was also very poor at times.
On the other hand, his ability to get to the basket is first-rate. Images of Derrick Rose, Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook dance in one’s head when you see somebody of such superior size taking it to the rack like he does. His bulk should also provide him the opportunity to play in the post some, a la Gary Payton, although he wasn’t really utilized in that manner for the Cowboys.
One thing that he did do well in college that could be a good fit for coach Quin Snyder‘s new offense with the Jazz is play in the pick and roll. Whether it was keeping the ball and taking it to the basket or finding the open man out of the double-team, Smart usually made good decisions and good plays in the screen-roll game.
Smart was also great in the open floor and on the break. In his introductory press conference, Snyder said that Utah would try to play with pace and get easy baskets, and if Smart is the transition player who many believe he is, he could be a prime piece to that puzzle.
As with any prospect, it remains to be seen what he can do at the next level. Is he D-Wade or Westbrook? Is he Tyreke Evans?
However you slice it, he’s Marcus Smart and he could be a good option for the Jazz with the fifth pick in the 2014 NBA Draft.