Earlier this week, a piece I wrote on why the Orlando Magic should avoid international prospect Dante Exum (which can be viewed here) received a lot of criticism. For the record, there were some who agreed with my decision and I won’t rehash the same argument here.
However, a couple of people who commented on the piece and got in touch with me through Twitter felt that a point guard truly was the best option for this team, even if Dante Exum was not. My opinion was that a forward/big should be the main focus with the team’s fourth pick, as there are a lot of potential game changers in this draft who play that position.
Going down the point guard route though, why haven’t more people taken a look at what Marcus Smart can bring to this team if drafted?
Now I’m not the only crazy one who believes Exum should be passed up if the chance arises, this guy agrees with me to some extent in that he would take Smart over Exum.
Beginning with the obvious, Smart played two years in college with Oklahoma State. The closest Exum ever got to playing top level talent consistently was at international tournaments. While at Oklahoma State, Smart averaged 16.6 points a game, although last year his average was 18 points.
At 6’4″ he is relatively tall for a point guard, although not as tall or long as Exum. At 220 pounds, though, he would certainly not be afraid to absorb some contact while he goes to the rim. He is more of a true point guard as well, while Exum is more effective without the ball in his hands.
Great as that is, that also means that some in the NBA still aren’t truly convinced Exum is a point guard, while Smart fits that bill more clearly. In case you haven’t forgotten, the Magic already have a shooting guard in Victor Oladipo who they believe has superstar potential, so they don’t need another player jamming this position.
Orlando ranked 25th in points scored last year at 96.5 a game, with Arron Afflalo being their leading scorer (18.2 points per game, a career high). The problem with that is Afflalo is not an out-and-out scorer, but instead is a really solid two-way player.
More than that, he has one of the best contracts in the league as well. He will make just more than $7.5 million next year, with the following year seeing a slight increase in money, albeit with a player option kicking in.
For what he does on the court, he represents serious value and no doubt contending teams will come sniffing around sooner rather than later. That makes finding a scoring punch from elsewhere quickly a priority, and Smart is a guard who knows how to get his own.
Of course, it is worth pointing out that the mechanics of his jump shot need considerable work and he chucked up a lot of contested shots last year, but to still get 18 points a game despite these drawbacks that can be ironed out means this guy could be Orlando’s main scoring threat if he lands there.
On the defensive end, he could contribute right away with his big, defined frame. It may take his mind time to adjust to how the professional game is played but with that frame he can make a difference just by being on the court right away.
Combine that with the defensive chops of Afflalo and Nikola Vucevic clogging the paint and suddenly this team’s identity could come from its defense.
One of the key concerns though is Smart’s mentality. Last year saw some blips in his image, although “chairgate” was blown out of proportion. Yes, kicking a chair after having a rough start to a game and getting in early foul trouble isn’t advised, but it also isn’t the end of the world either.
However, the shoving of Texas Tech fan Jeff Orr in the closing moments of a regular-season loss in February was more worrying.
Actions like that quickly turn teams away, giving said players labels. It’s why DeMarcus Cousins has the reputation he has as well. Great player, but with the wrong attitude.
If Smart was so easily riled by that fan, think how easily fellow players could get in his head with trash talking. Remember, whatever team Smart goes to will probably lose a lot of games too, and coupling that with taunts could lead to this guy losing his cool often. That would be a shame.
That is an issue, but in reality there is a lot to like here. A strong and athletic player who can score, works the pick and roll effectively and can make a difference on the defensive end.
Again, Exum is going to have his fans who feel Orlando should take him, and there is much to like about his game. Marcus Smart is being less talked about however, despite the fact he played two years at Oklahoma State and visibly got better in his sophomore year as well.
It is easier to match his game up against others because he has done it at the college level. His player efficiency rating of 26.9 is through the roof as well. The word out there is that Orlando has brought him in for a second workout ahead of the draft, so they must have liked what they saw as well.
If the Magic decide point guard is the way to go with the No. 4 pick, Smart surely has to be near the top of their list of candidates.