The New Orleans Pelicans went into the 2014 NBA Draft without a single draft pick of their own, but in a draft night trade, they acquired one.
New Orleans sent the rights to guard Pierre Jackson, who they acquired in the Jrue Holiday deal during the 2013 NBA Draft, back to the Philadelphia 76ers for the draft rights to Russ Smith, the 47th overall pick in the draft. Jackson, taken with the 42nd pick in the 2013 Draft, didn’t see any time in the NBA last season, despite an impressive performance in the D-League, and was rumored to be moved earlier in the offseason.
Smith, a 23-year-old senior out of Louisville, was one of the most impressive and consistent players in the entire NCAA for the past few seasons. A 2013-14 Consensus First-Team All-American, Smith was one of the better seniors in the league last season, and helped lead Louisville to a National Championship in 2012-13.
A 46 percent shooter as a senior, he scored 18.2 points per game while adding 4.6 assists. An offensive rating of 116.9 and a defensive rating of 89.8, Russ Smith was one of the best two-way players in college. Despite impressive accolades and stats, Smith was bound for the second round, and ended up landing with the New Orleans Pelicans.
On June 10th, it was announced that Smith and the Pelicans agreed to a deal, in which the lengths and the amount of money have yet to be made clear.
It’s already clear that general manager Dell Demps certainly likes Smith, judging from his comments in The Courier-Journal:
“Really, it was (the 2012-13 national championship season) when he caught my eye,” Pelicans general manager Dell Demps said in a telephone interview on Monday. “It was when he was playing with Peyton Siva. Just the way those two got after it defensively, it was fun to watch.” – (via Adam Himmelsbach, The Courier-Journal)
Having the general manager on your side is always good, especially when you consider Smith has yet to play a game in the NBA. When you consider that Brian Roberts wasn’t brought back by New Orleans, there could be some serious competition for minutes at the backup guard spot behind Jrue Holiday.
Smith shot 38.7 percent from three-point territory last season. He’s certainly no Ray Allen, but he could improve New Orleans’ already dominant distance shooting. They ranked sixth in the league past season, and could easily improve if Smith’s shot could still stay sweet. Looking at their passing as a team, they ranked 19th in the league in assists per game. Smith was dropping 4.6 dimes per game at Louisville his final year, and could potentially be a decent passer at the professional level as well.
Smith will certainly go under the radar as far as draft picks, at least until he plays. There’s no doubting he showed potential, especially his senior year. If he could be in the right situation where he could gain minutes behind a talented guard in Holiday, and with an ownership that certainly has his back, it could be a good sign for Smith’s young career.