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.