This is the 25th in a daily look at the top prospects in the NBA Draft: Their strengths, their weaknesses, and whether or not they're a fit for the Celtics. Today's prospect: Marcus Smart
MARCUS SMART, OKLAHOMA STATE
6-foot-3, 227 pounds
HIS STORY: Little over a year ago, Marcus Smart's story was simple. He was considered to be a top 5, and maybe even a top 3, pick, in the 2013 draft. Instead, he chose to return to Oklahoma State for his sophomore season. A preseason All-American selection, he wanted to help snap Kansas' Big 12 title streak (the Jayhawks had won nine regular-season championships in a row heading into 2013-14) and lead the Cowboys on a run at the national championship. But by the time the NCAA Tournament came around, Smart was nearly a cautionary tale. This stemmed from an incident in February; Oklahoma State, in the midst of a three-game losing streak, was playing at Texas Tech and Smart went flying into the stands under the basket after a heckling fan. In a now-infamous scene Smart pushed the fan, which earned him a three-game suspension. The Cowboys wound up losing seven in a row and eventually were bounced in their opening game of the Tournament. It was a disappointing year for Smart, but he still put up strong numbers: 18 points, 5.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Despite this being his story -- and he has to own it -- I think it will have zero impact on what will be a great NBA career.
HIS STRENGTHS: He has a NBA-ready body and game. Physically he has good size for a point guard at 6-foot-3 (with a 6-9 wingspan) and a strong 227 pounds. He’s explosive but also solid with the ball, able to finish through contact at the rim. He’s great in transition but really understands how to run a team and where the ball needs to be to execute in the half-court. As you can see from his stat line, he impacts the game in a variety of ways. Smart is active on the glass and competes hard on the defensive end. His long wingspan irritates offensive players and makes it difficult to get comfortable (2.9 steals per game, third in the nation). Despite the Texas Tech incident and his consistently flopping/playing to crowds this year, coaches and general managers love Smart’s intangibles. Everyone you talk to praises his work ethic, leadership, competitive fire and passion for the game. He’s the consummate team guy that you want running the show for your squad.
HIS WEAKNESSES: His shooting has to improve. Last year, from he shot 29 percent from 3-point range and a not-so-impressive 42 percent on 2-point shots. His mechanics from 3 are not bad, and reports from his workouts are positive in that he seems much improved from that distance. His poor shooting percentages were partially impacted by poor shot selection. As Oklahoma State struggled, Smart sometimes tried to do too much and forced tough or quick shots. At the next level, he has to understand he has much more help around him and let the game come to him.
IS HE A FIT FOR THE CELTICS? Danny Ainge has said previously that Smart’s tumultuous season is not a a red flag for him, but instead a positive. He views it as passion and something he can relate to, as he got in a few altercations on the court in his playing days. Ainge also said on CSN’s Lottery Night Special that the Celtics are in the position where they have to take the best available player with the sixth pick. When looking at the draft board, I’m guessing Smart could easily be that player. With Rajon Rondo around, Smart and the Celtics aren't an obvious fit. But I think Rondo and Smart could play together effectively. Both are creative, and Rondo being more ball dominant could help the C’s generate offense. Lastly, after Smart’s workout with the Celtics, Brad Stevens had nothing but good things to say about him (as did all the Boston brass). I think Stevens would welcome the challenge to make these two point guards thrive, and if the C’s keep their sixth pick Smart very well could be the best player available when they're on the clock.
COMING NEXT: Noah Vonleh of Indiana