The Magic and Marcus Smart have been in a two-year dance with each other. The interest has long been considered to be mutual as the Magic were reportedly going to take him ahead of Victor Oladipo last year. Then Smart withdrew from the Draft and the rest is history.
That history was not necessarily kind to Smart. Not only did Smart enter a much more talented draft pool, but he also allowed every wart of his game to be exposed in a sophomore year at Oklahoma State. The pressure was increased and the stakes were raised for Smart. He had his moments and he had his moments where he struggled. It was what you would expect from a sophomore.
He gave NBA scouts the time to pick apart his game and look at every flaw. The negative seemed to outweigh the positives in his sophomore year. Oklahoma State struggled and exited the NCAA Tournament early yet again. Then there was the incident at Texas Tech which got a lot of public attention and was a growing moment for the young player.
What would be concerning on the court was the relative stagnation of his stats at Oklahoma State. Here is a table of his stats from his two years in Stillwater:
Smart’s offensive game improved greatly between his freshman and sophomore year. He did become a better shooter, although he is not quite the kind of shooter you can rely on and teams will still likely go under screens against him, daring him to shoot. That is going to be his reality.
Smart though is still a very capable point guard in today’s basketball world. He should be a solid player. His poor shooting is going to hold him back. And, while his usage percentage increased his sophomore year, his assist numbers stayed relatively flat. Part of that is because Oklahoma State was not the must star-studded team. Smart had to carry a lot of the offensive load for his team. That certainly should be taken into consideration.
Still, the question has to be asked. Even though he is a bull on defense and a strong driver and finisher, if he is a point guard that is not a great passer and distributor and not a great shooter, what is he? Those are questions Smart will spend a career trying to answer.
The Good: Smart is built like a linebacker and that bodes well for a young point guard. He has really good size and fits the position well. Smart can manage a team and get his own points and be a threat to score. He is a prototype body-wise for what the point guard position can be in the NBA. He is deceptively quick and a solid game manager. There is no reason not to think Smart will not become a serviceable point guard. He could very well be a very good point guard. He has the talent and the drive to bury his head and get to the basket to score. And that is what he does.
The Bad: Smart still has to improve as a playmaker, first and foremost. He is a less-fast Derrick Rose. Well, most of us are. But Smart plays in a similar kind of drive-to-score mentality. He just does not have the explosiveness or ability to dish the ball like a superstar point guard can. Then there is his shooting. Smart is not a great shooter at this point. He did not show enough demonstrable improvement between his freshman and sophomore year to give you faith that he will come in and light up the NBA. He is a point guard you start, but not a point guard you build a team around. That does not mean he will not be good. But there are some issues with him that could keep him from being worth a No. 4 pick in this year’s Draft.
Draft Sites Say:
NBADraft.net: Strong, heady point guard with great size and instincts…Uses his mixture of quickness, strength, instincts, and aggressiveness to get to the rim, then uses his big frame and excellent body control to finish through contact…In addition to his scoring ability, Smart doubles as an excellent passer and playmaker. He has great court vision and is willing to make the unselfish play to set up his teammates. Averaged 5.8 assists per 40 minutes last season . . . Not a great outside shooter. Only made 29% from distance last season. Needs to polish his mechanics and hit on a more consistent basis. Struggles mightily on jumpers when guarded. Release slowed by bringing the ball down to his knees before rising up and releasing. Simply needs to be more consistent with his shot mechanics…Opponents will find it easier to stay in front of Smart because they don’t have to guard him as tight and respect his jumper…Not a very efficient scorer. Needs to take smarter jump shots and not settle for pull-up threes.
DraftExpress.com: Smart’s role for Oklahoma State had him running the pick and roll much less frequently than his peers. Only 21.2% of his offensive possessions were used on the pick and roll and only 14.5% of the possessions derived from his own usage and his passes came from dishes out of the pick and roll, both of which rank well below average. The second least effective shooter in this group making 36% of his shots after dribbling off a ball screen, Smart’s overall efficiency on the pick and roll actually ranks above average since he drew free throws on more than a quarter of his possessions in the two-man game, illustrating how big a part of his game his athleticism and physicality play in his success offensively at this stage in his career.
NBA Draft Room: Extremely strong and powerful guard who is a load to handle on the wing and in the paint. Has great lateral quickness and can get by defenders and into the lane well. Compact body makes him hard to stop under the basket or when attacking the rim.
Jabari Davis, Basketball Insiders: Few who have watched Smart’s game develop over the past two years at Oklahoma State would have questioned this, as his intensity and relentless approach when on the court are precisely what make him such a threat. At just 20 years old, Smart has already learned some valuable lessons about maintaining focus and remaining professional while under fire. Keep in mind, Smart was the player that got into that unfortunate incident with an opposing fan back in February in the midst of what ended up being a tumultuous sophomore season for Smart and the Cowboys. He did produce an impressive 18 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 4.8 APG, but his Cowboys weren’t as successful as anticipated, nonetheless.
Corey Hansford, My NBA Draft: Smart has the exact build you want in today’s age of point guards. He is built like a tank, with an excellent wingspan for his size. He is great at using his body to his advantage, bullying over smaller guards to get in the paint.
Matt Moore, CBS Sports: Do they pass on Embiid? They can gamble with him, they have enough other assets and the long-term patience to help him get healthy. But then there’s Smart, and while I’ve had him as low as middle-first a few months ago, the reality is that he’s a strong, athletic guard who can make plays and create. The shot is worrisome, but the skilset and body is supreme. Orlando gets the bad cop to Oladipo’s good cop, and it’s not a bad move.
Chris Johnson, Point Forward: Smart is a dogged defender and one of the best rebounders at his position. Last season at Oklahoma State, he recorded swipes on 5 percent of opponents’ possessions and posted a 14.9 defensive rebounding percentage, ranking second among teammates who appeared in at least 15 games, according to Kenpom.com. Smart is also a good finisher from close range and doesn’t shy away from contact. He drew nearly seven fouls per 40 minutes last season, which ranked 50th in the country. Smart showed improved distribution skills from his freshman season, boosting his assist rate nearly four percentage points, and is a terror in the open court, as he scored 1.134 points per possession on transition play types, per Synergy scouting data. In addition, coaches have long raved about Smart’s character and leadership qualities.
David Aldridge, NBA.com: But NBA types I spoke with are not moved by Smart’s non-basketball issues. They were more impressed with his decision to go back to school and put off the pros for a year. “The incident he had this year doesn’t bother me at all,” a Western Conference executive said. “If he believes what was said to him, I can totally understand his reaction. I love that competitive fire in him. He wants to win. He wants to tear your heart out. Controlling that emotion will be an issue, but over 82 games, you have that malaise, and you need somebody to help you tear through that.”
Final Word: The Magic have long been connected to Marcus Smart and they are in desperate need for a point guard. But this is certainly a case of a player returning to school and seeing all his warts exposed. If something could go wrong for Smart his sophomore year it could. He still showed a lot of good. A lot of points scored and attacks to the basket made. But he did not show the kind of improvement you wanted to see from someone returning to that level. He stayed too stagnant, and in this Draft class — particularly considering the Magic’s needs — that may not be enough to warrant a pick.