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Dec 1, 2013; Lake Buena Vista, FL, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Marcus Smart (33) points against the Memphis Tigers during the first half at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Player Profile: Marcus Smart

 

Marcus Smart
Sophomore
6’4, 220 lb. PG-SG, Oklahoma State

Overview: Smart could have been one of the first three players selected in the 2013 NBA Draft. Smart averaged 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and three steals as a freshman, but elected to return to school for his sophomore campaign. Despite skepticism as to whether he could make another leap, Smart is off to a hot start in his second year at Oklahoma State, averaging 19.7 points and shooting 46.3 percent from the field.

Best Performances

  • vs. Memphis: 39 points, 11-21 fg, 12-16 ft, 5-10 3pt, 5 steals, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks
  • vs. Purdue: 30 points, 9-18 fg, 8-11 ft, 4 rebounds, 4 assists

Strengths:

  • NBA Size
  • Strength
  • Length
  • Lateral quickness
  • Defensive upside
  • Leadership
  • Composure
  • Motor
  • Basketball IQ
  • Winning attitude
  • Solid athleticism
  • Impacts both sides of the ball
  • Ability to play in the low post
  • Gets to the free throw line at will
  • Potential off the dribble
  • Creates for others

Weaknesses:

  • Needs to continue to improve jump shot
  • Free throw shooting
  • Shot selection
  • Good, but not great athlete
  • Decision making off the dribble
  • Needs tighter handle
  • Doesn’t possess elite quickness 
  • Stuck between positions?
  • Will size advantage sustain at the next level?

Smart’s size is the first thing that pops out. Smart is arguably the most physically imposing guard in college basketball. At 6’4 and roughly 220 pounds, he has terrific size for a guard. With a 6’8 wingspan, Smart can defend both guard positions and is an absolute pest. Smart has quick hands and is averaging 3.9 steals per 40 minutes. Smart doesn’t gamble either; his last name is an accurate description of his defense. With time, Smart could be one of the NBA’s premier perimeter defenders.

Smart’s strong upper body helps him absorb contact in the paint and get to the foul line. Smart is attempting 10.4 free throws per 40 minutes, a large improvement from his 7.8 attempts as a freshman. Smart has five games of 10 free throw attempts or more this season. Smart is only shooting 67 percent on his attempts, which negates a key part of his game.

Smart is a powerful player and despite not being the quickest player, is able to get by defenders with his strength, create separation, and get to the basket. Smart is a good, but not great athlete. Still, he doesn’t have much trouble getting the offense hew ants with his physical advantage at the college level, but could struggle finishing and drawing contact on a regular basis against defenders who can match his size. Physically, Smart is clearly a man playing among boys right now. 

Oklahoma State’s offense runs a fair amount of plays through Smart in the low post where he’s able to back down smaller guards. Smart often gets great position due to his size advantage at the college level. He pins defenders deep into the paint and goes straight up to score with ease. He shows clean foot work and patience in the low post, as well as a knack for finding the open man. Point guards seldom operate through the low post in today’s NBA. Older point guards like Chauncey Billups and Andre Miller used the low post as a key part of their offense.

Nov 19, 2013; Stillwater, OK, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys guard Marcus Smart (33) shoots over a Memphis Tigers defender during the first half at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Mandatory Credit: Alonzo Adams-USA TODAY Sports

Smart is showing encouraging progress from the perimeter so far this season. He’s making 34.6 percent of his 3-point shots, compared to 29 percent as a freshman. Smart gets good lift on his jumper and has solid mechanics. It’s encouraging that Smart doesn’t lack confidence in his jump shot and it’s clear he’s out to prove to NBA scouts this season that he can shoot. Smart hasn’t been afraid to get a rebound and pull up from 3-point range in transition. He’s looked good running off screens in the half court and getting his shot off as well.

While his field goal percentage is up and jump shot looks improved, his efficiency could be even higher if he stopped settling for long jumpers and utilized his strength more. Smart is attempting over seven 3-pointers per 40 minutes, which is up big from his freshman season. Even though Smart shows flashes of being able to shoot off the dribble and make difficult shots, he isn’t a big-time shot maker just yet. 

Smart isn’t a pure point guard, but he does a good job of running Oklahoma State’s offense. He’s averaging around the same amount of assists as he did as a freshman and does an accept job of setting up teammates and moving the ball. However, Smart’s decision making in traffic could still use some polish. 

Smart’s decision making leaves room to wonder which guard position he’ll play at the next level. He doesn’t have a reliable jump shot to consistently play off the ball as a shooting guard, but still has a ways to go to improve as a point guard. Considering the amount of hybrid guards around the league, it likely makes more sense to develop Smart as a point guard and keep the ball in his hands, where he’s most effective.

Assuming Smart is selected by a young and inexperienced team next summer, his most valuable traits will be his winning attitude. Smart is vocal, plays hard on both sides and shows a strong ability to rally a team together. Smart doesn’t play for numbers and is comfortable having a 10 point, nine rebounds, eight assists night just as much as he is a 25 point, three rebounds, four assists night. Smart is able to do things that don’t show up in a stat sheet and succeeds as a coach on the floor.

Considering the lack of point guards who play with strength over athleticism and quickness, a direct player comparison is difficult for Smart. Derrick Rose and Eric Bledsoe come to mind as two of the strongest NBA point guards. Smart is this year’s Victor Oladipo in the sense that he possesses the strongest intangibles of the players projected in the draft lottery and can be the glue of a winning lineup. Combined with his strength, defensive ability, and an improved jump shot, Smart looks like a definite top five pick next summer. He might not possess the superstar upside that some of the acclaimed freshmen prospects, but he has the upside to be legitimate all-star talent. 

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