Greetings, NBA fans of the team that drafted Dennis Smith, your team has made a wise and commendable decision, in my biased opinion. Dennis Smith is a 19-year-old point guard who spent one season at NC State before turning pro.
Per-game: 18.1 points, 6.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds
Role at NC State
Smith stepped immediately into the starting point guard spot, replacing veteran Cat Barber, who opted to turn pro. Like Barber, Smith was relied on heavily for scoring on a bad team that didn’t surround him with a lot of helpful options.
He aggressively hunted his shot and was able to fill up the stat sheet in a number of ways, as evidenced by the two triple-doubles he recorded. The first (27 points, 11 assists, 11 boards) came in an easy win over Virginia Tech, while the second (13 pts, 15 ast, 10 reb) came in a loss to Syracuse.
He had to do a lot for an otherwise undermanned team, and that certainly came at a cost to his efficiency. Being able to assume a smaller role as an NBA rookie should help him quite a bit. (Having actual good shooters around him also will help.)
Smith was widely regarded as one of the best 10 players in his recruiting class despite suffering an ACL tear during the August prior to the start of his senior year. Smith committed to NC State that fall and then enrolled early for the spring semester to aid in his recovery from the injury.
Explosiveness — You will be hard pressed to find a better athlete at this position in the draft. A year removed from his knee injury, he showed no ill effects. He can still jump forever, and he can be a vicious finisher at the rim. (And he did not miss a college game because of injury, either.)
There are plenty more examples but that’s a good sample.
First step/handle — What made Smith so good as a freshman was his ability to match a quick first step with his above-average athleticism and ball-handling skills. It was not easy for college defenders to keep him in front, even when they knew what he was going to do—and they usually did, since NC State lacked threats elsewhere. He attempted 200 free throws in 32 games, which is a credit both to how much time he logged on the court as well as his ability to get into the lane off the bounce.
Fearlessness — The injury never seemed to be in the back of his mind while he was on the floor, which is a credit to his mental preparation. And it’s a good thing, too, since so much of his game keys off of his aggressive style.
Leadership — There was never any doubt this was Dennis’ team while he was on the floor, but he generally was not the vocal or demonstrative type, nor did he make much effort in this regard once the season starting going south. Hey, it’s difficult to come in as a freshman with a reputation that precedes you and take over a locker room.
Defense — Smith had a tendency to lapse mentally at the defensive end, but then again, who on the team didn’t? Mark Gottfried was never any good at coaching defensive schemes or fundamentals, so some of Smith’s performance at this end is merely a reflection of that. He did finish 144th nationally in steal rate.
Shooting — His jump shooting form is not bad by any means, but his production from the perimeter was inconsistent from game to game. He finished the season hitting about 36% of his three-point attempts, and when he’s cooking he can hit pretty much anything; it’s just that wasn’t the norm. I would not consider this area of his game a major red flag, though.