One of the youngest players in the draft, Nick Smith Jr was dealt a tough hand as a freshman with injuries and poor spacing at Arkansas. As a freshman, Smith averaged 12.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG, 1.7 APG, 0.8 SPG, 0.1 BPG, and 1.6 TOPG on splits of 38/34/74. Below is his full scouting report:
Name: Nick Smith Jr
Wingspan/ standing reach: N/A
Hand size: N/A
Pre-Draft team: Arkansas
Tools: Shooting, speed
- Good & intelligent cutter
- Comfortable using both hands as a ball-handler and finisher
- Speedy guard with great burst
- Crafty shot creator for jump shots
- Nice hesitation and change of speed
- Good recovery ability defensively
- Good motor
- Young- will be 19 for the entirety of his rookie season
- Must become more consistent hitting moving jumpers
- Needs to prove more flashes of advanced playmaking
- Can play out of control, especially with shot selection, at times
- Falls in love with his one hand push shot/floater when pressured off drives in mid range
- Needs to get better at utilizing screeners in P&R as a self-creator
- Straight line driver
- Needs to eliminate jump passes; passing feel is weak
- Must get better finishing at the rim
- Needs to get stronger
- Picks up his dribble too easily, especially off of screens
- P&R ability/taking advantage of screeners
- Overall PG skills
- Rim pressure
Nick Smith’s areas of improvement are alarming to me. He rushes and forces a lot of decisions with the ball in his hands, he has a long ways to go as a pick & roll ball handler, and his slashing ability is simple for someone with such an effective ball-handling package.
Offensively, while the production didn’t match the label for Smith as a shooter, there still is high, achievable upside for Smith to be one of the NBA’s better shooters. Context at Arkansas is key: the spacing was one of the worst among power five schools, let alone in the SEC having no stretch bigs with only roll-men out of screens. Additionally, Smith struggled with health and getting consistent rhythm, which could also have factored into underwhelming efficiency and overall stats.
The overarching red flag with Nick Smith, however, is how scrambled he would get when he operated any offense behind a screen. He was impatient in letting his man roll, he would force bad shots including a push shot from too deep, and he overall struggled to find teammates after his screen. As this summary might indicate, Smith scored in the 22nd percentile as a pick & roll ball-handler, which should be a bit of a red flag for NBA teams. In order to stick in the NBA, Smith has to improve as a P&R ball-handler, and expand his vision, as well as not forcing shots and committing to shooting or passing before the play, but rather reacting to what the defense is showing him. He also is a bit over-reliant on his floater, and passes up easier shots for a more difficult floater and runner.
On top of this, Smith only took 33 shots at the rim all year, and in just halfcourt settings the numbers halves to 16. His lack of rim pressure, while partly attributed to spacing, is worrisome because he also avoids contact, and can play out of control at the rim. Again, the over-reliance on the floater shows: he took 55 floaters (these are not included in Synergy’s tracking of at rim shots) to 33 layups, putbacks, and dunks combined.
Defensively, Smith looked a bit stiff at times, but this is where context yet again matters: he battled an injury throughout the season, which may have contributed to this. Defense will still be a swing area for him, but he should have the tools to stay in front of defenders well. This is still somewhat of an unknown at the moment, and may vary depending on where he gets drafted to.
Overall, Nick Smith profiles as an off-ball minded guard, at least early in his career, with potential to grow as a ball-handler and defender. In order to become more than another guard that blends in with shot-making, but not high-level enough to stand out, he will have to improve those areas, and find ways to impact the game without jump shooting. That being said, Smith’s shooting upside is so high that the injury-riddled season likely undersold his shooting ability and upside.
Similar to: Gary Trent Jr, Dion Waiters, Malik Beasley, Lou Williams
Projected draft range: 14-25
Expected role: Shooter with some defensive potential
Unplayable if: Jump shot isn’t falling and he doesn’t become impactful enough in other areas (passing, defense, rim pressure)
Exceeds expectations if: Jump shot translates to the level his high school label had him, plus he develops a high-level secondary skill.