"There are no parts of me that think I'm not ready for anything that comes at me in life." - Dennis Smith Jr.
There isn’t anyone entering the NBA Draft like Dennis Smith Jr. With his Ric Flair-like confidence and his array of skills, he is primed to be one of the best players in the upcoming NBA Draft.
This shouldn't come as a surprise as he was once pegged as the next best point guard in the NBA.
In any other year, Smith would have been far and away one of the top three prospects entering the draft. That's not the case this year, but he could be the steal of the draft if he continues to slide down draft boards.
The high-flying freshman is coming off a year where he achieved individual success at NC State. To say that he lived up to lofty expectations is an understatement. Although the Wolfpack failed to make the NCAA Tournament, Smith won the ACC Rookie of the Year and was named to the All-ACC Second Team.
On a nightly basis, Smith showed that he could play at the highest level against some of the best talents in college hoops. But why isn’t he as heralded as the other point guards in this year’s draft? Some say it could be timing. By happenstance, Smith is wedged between two of the most sure-fire prospects in recent memory in UCLA's Lonzo Ball and Washington's Markelle Fultz. It also doesn’t help that Kentucky's De’Aaron Fox, another point guard, is continuing to climb draft boards. But who’s to say that Smith can’t become the best out of the bunch?
The dim spotlight on him is perplexing, but at the same time, it's understandable. He doesn’t have a hype man and boisterous dad like Ball. He isn’t as polished and poised as Fultz, nor does he come from a college basketball powerhouse like Fox.
Things are quiet for him as of now, but as soon he steps on an NBA floor, that notion will come to an end.
When watching Smith, it’s like he’s playing in fast-forward while defenders are moving like AOL dial-up internet. His relentless style of play makes him bust-proof. It’s plausible that his playing style may give a coach a headache, but it's rewarding when things are going well.
Like most young point guards and players in general, Smith has tendencies that need fixing: throwing careless no-look passes and trying to make the highlight when a simple play is needed. He's still worth the risk.
Although he battled turnover issues in his only season at NC State, he was still one of the most tantalizing talents in college hoops. As you might expect, he's a beast in transition, and he can operate the pick-and-roll. His ability to use his speed to create for himself and his teammates is where he will thrive at the next level. While he’s praised for his hops, that’s not the end story when talking about Smith's game.
For someone who is 19 years old, he has a calmness and tight handle to his game that’s veteran-like. Players with his ability to attack the rim usually live and die by the drive, but Smith’s arsenal of floaters, pull-up jump shots and three-pointers keeps defenses guessing.
There are some concerns on the defensive side of the ball, but with his level of athleticism, if he commits, he can cause havoc against opposing point guards.
As of now, it’s not known how the one-and-done prospect will develop as a pro. If he’s given an opportunity to develop without the pressure of being traded, we could be looking at one of the best players in the 2017 NBA Draft, which shouldn’t come as a surprise.
Smith isn't the best player entering the draft, but there aren’t many players who have the value that he could add to a team. There are a lot of guys who are taller, more talented and can shoot better than Smith, but nobody is as intriguing.
Since the spotlight found him in high school, Smith has added different elements to his game that mesh with his world-class athleticism.
While we rightfully focus on top-tier prospects such as Ball, Fultz, Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum leading up to the draft, let's not forget about the kid from Fayetteville, North Carolina who is not only the most alluring prospect in the 2017 NBA Draft, but the player that could be the best out of them all.