RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Nolan SmithPosted by nvr1983 on June 4th, 2011
Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.
Player Name: Nolan Smith
Height/Weight: 6’4, 190 lbs.
NBA Position: Point Guard/Shooting Guard
Projected Draft Range: Late First to Early Second Round
Overview: After spending much of the first three and a half years of his time at Duke in the shadows of more prolific scorers, Smith stepped up in the second half of his senior season to become the Blue Devils’ leader while picking up some pretty significant individual hardware — AP 1st team All-American and ACC Player of the Year — along the way. The son of the late Derek Smith, a star at Louisville in the early 1980s, Smith started to show signs of becoming a potential first round pick as a junior when his production jumped from 8.4 points per game as a sophomore to 17.4 the next year while seeing his playing time increase significantly. However, even at that point he was often in the shadows of All-American Kyle Singler and senior Jon Scheyer. He started to show signs of becoming the team’s leader with a series of scintillating summer league performances a year ago that had the nation buzzing, but found himself in a secondary role when the season started thanks to the arrival of Kyrie Irving, the likely #1 pick in this year’s draft. To his credit, Smith continued to play well while not creating too much attention even when Irving dominated the ball. Smith finally got to show his full repertoire when Irving went down with a toe injury early in the season against Butler. From that point forward, he asserted himself as one of the premier guards in recent years and has turned himself from a player that many considered a fringe NBA candidate to one who has a legitimate shot at being a first round pick.
Will Translate to the NBA: Smith is a prototypical combo guard. He probably won’t become a star, but should be a solid role player for years because of his ability to score in spurts and fill in as a point guard in spots. Smith will struggle to start in the NBA because he isn’t quite a good enough scorer (mainly due to his erratic outside shooting) to compensate for his lack of size as a shooting guard and isn’t a good enough distributor to be a starting NBA point unless he winds up in a situation like Miami where a ‘point forward’ is dominating the ball and distributing. Smith’s solid defense should be effective when defending point guards, but his lack of size will become an issue when he is forced to defend taller shooting guards; that might be ameliorated by the fact that most NBA shooting guards have an annoying tendency not to take smaller guards into the post, preferring to stay on the perimeter despite their obvious advantage.
Needs Work: Smith needs to focus on becoming a more consistent outside shooter and becoming a more effective distributor. Essentially Smith needs to develop at least one area of his game to an excellent status if he wants to get a lot of minutes in the NBA. Right now he is a very good scorer and a decent point guard. As anybody who watched him over the past two seasons can tell you, when Smith is hitting his outside shot he was nearly unstoppable at the college level since he is also adept at getting to the rim. Unfortunately Smith’s jumper is unreliable and if he isn’t able to hit outside shots consistently, he will struggle to get by and create separation from NBA defenders. If he continues to be inconsistent shooting the ball and doesn’t develop into at least a solid distributor, Smith might have a hard time finding much playing time and eventually struggle to even stay in the league, which is unfortunate because his other skills are certainly NBA-worthy.
Comparison Players: C.J. Watson. Like Watson, Smith will be forced to play point guard, but is more of a scorer than a pure one. Watson’s relative success and the manner in which he has done it (remaining a scorer while still playing at point) bodes well for Smith’s potential pro success. He will likely have to adopt a similar style as he lacks the athleticism of some other similarly sized guards who are not consistent outside shooters like Tony Allen. Smith would also be well-served to function as a back-up point guard because he lacks the innate decision-making skills of a typical NBA starting one, but would be more than adequate coming off the bench in that role.
Best Case Scenario: Smith ends up on a team with a solid point guard who can play 35-40 minutes a game for Smith’s first season or two in the league, which would give him a brief but reasonable opportunity to get some minutes against the second team. At times Smith could also play at shooting guard with the starter and showcase his ability to play off the ball. Playing with such a skilled lead guard would hopefully allow Smith the opportunity to learn behind someone who excels at the skill he needs to master as he only spent a little time behind someone like that in college and Irving did not have enough experience at Duke to teach Smith how to play the position himself.
2014 Projection: Smith should probably be a solid rotation player at this point (probably getting around 10-15 minutes per game). The big question is whether he can develop either of the necessary skills (consistent outside shooting or an ability to distribute) that we mentioned above. Our guess is that Smith ends up becoming a better distributor but never elevates to become a consistent outside shooter. Smith showed signs of becoming a good point guard at times this year, but hasn’t been asked to do it for a prolonged period of time because Mike Krzyzewski asked Scheyer and Irving to run the point the past two seasons at Duke. With a little more time at the position, he should be a solid back-up point guard who also gives the second unit a potential scoring option.
Best NBA Fit: Dallas seems like an ideal fit. Smith could learn how to play the point from Jason Kidd, one of the best point guards of all-time, and he would get plenty of playing time since Kidd is getting close to the end of his career. Smith would have to fight for minutes with J.J. Barea, but it seems like he could be a stronger, more athletic version of the diminutive guard. Dallas is also a team that needs all the offense it can get out of players not named Dirk Nowitzki and Smith’s solid defense would fit in well with the new look Mavericks.
Scout’s Take (Chris Denker from Netscouts Basketball): “he’s a competitor and a winner who’s proven himself… a good shooter and defender who improved his athleticism at Duke… he’ll make a team and help them some down the road.”