2017 Draft Profile: Dennis Smith Jr.

Class: Freshman
Ht: 6-foot-3
Wt: 195 pounds
2016-17 Stats: 18.1 points, 6.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals


HOW HE OPERATES

At some point in the lead-up to the June 22 NBA Draft this question will be asked: After Lonzo Ball, who is the best point guard? The answer may very well be North Carolina State guard Dennis Smith Jr. He is a Damian Lillard-esque guard – minus some of Lillard’s explosion and athleticism – who will impress in any individual workouts he holds. Don’t be surprised to see him rise up draft projections as that day nears. Smith Jr.’s stats paint a feast-or-famine picture. He had 12 games of 20 or more points, two triple doubles, and an ACC-high 16 assists in a game on Dec. 28. On the flipside: He also had 16 games of four or more turnovers – although teammates didn’t help him out in many of those instances.

Smith Jr. profiles as a true lead guard. He can run an offense and already has a solid pick-and-roll foundation because that was his most-used action at N.C. State. He had good feel, good patience in screen-roll actions and handled blitzes and double-teams well. And Smith faced a lot of them as many N.C. State opponents tried to take him out of the game by getting the ball out of his hands. He was a little slow to use the screen at times; could get the ball and get into the screen-roll faster. But he played at his own speed and was good at not letting defenses get him out of his pacing. Smith Jr. was great in transition, shooting 60 percent in those situations. He can finish with both his right and left hand at the rim. Finishing over taller players was a struggle, but Smith Jr. did draw a lot of fouls. He shot 71 percent from the free throw line. He’s not super-explosive, but can rise up for the dunk when he wants. Smith Jr. will work to improve his jump shot. He made just 32 percent of all of his jumpers during the season. He was 58 percent at the rim.

He is a good playmaker – and projects to be better than his team allowed him to be. Many dropped passes piled up on Smith’s turnover total, but he has really good vision. N.C. State kept things simple; a lot of his assists were to shooters coming off pindowns or on drive-and-kicks but he’s capable of much more. He can deliver on time and on target with his left or right hand, is good at slotting a pass in tight spaces and kept his head up in transition, looking for hit-ahead passes. Has the potential to be a big-time assist guard. Defensively, Smith Jr. has room to improve. He was a little too upright in his defense stance, which led to blow-bys, and didn’t get through screens as well as he could have. But at 6-3, Smith Jr. was a solid rebounder. He grabbed boards in traffic and crashed the offensive glass, too.

HIS BEST FIT

Any team looking for its point guard of the future and has the room to give major minutes early on is a good place for Smith. He’s got the capability of being a cornerstone scoring and playmaking piece for years to come.

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