An Introduction: Dennis Smith Jr.

By Jack Drapkin

For all the hype that Dennis Smith Jr., had coming out of high school, it sure seems lost after recovering from a torn ACL and playing for a downtrodden NC State program.

And while this is understandable, it is lost on me. He lead his team in scoring and assists (18 and 6 respectively) and regained much of the explosiveness that he showed pre-injury.

Now two weeks ago, I made the case the case the Knicks should go with De’Aaron Fox, and with more information now Frank Ntilikina would also be a great fit.

However, and I’m going to admit my bias here, Dennis Smith Jr., is the third best Point Guard prospect. In a year where the guys rated ahead of him, Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz have Hall of Fame potential, that means something. In fact, I think Dennis has as high a ceiling as anyone else in the draft class.

What makes Smith so special?

Scoring and Playmaking. Simple.

There are many players who can do one of these at the NBA level, in fact, everyone who’s played in the NBA has been a great scorer at some point in their career. However, the ability to do both at an elite level is rare, though less rare than in year’s prior. (See Westbrook, Russell, and Harden, James.)

But the guy who Smith has reminded me of the most since I saw him play in high school has been Derrick Rose. Yes that Derrick Rose, youngest league MVP ever before the knee injuries Rose.

There are certain things that simply cannot be taught. The uncanny ability to explode to the rim, hang and finish, was the stalwart of Rose’s young career and should be for Smith as well.

Areas of Concern?

How about defense and the ACL injury he spent the year and a half recovering from.

For all of his straight-line explosiveness to the basket and ability to use dribble moves to get by defenders, he struggles at times staying in front of opposing guards. He also needs work as a team defender, understanding how and when to help off his man. At the least, he needs to improve at the latter to contribute to better teams.

Injury wise he tore the ACL/PCL of his left knee, his plant leg, his senior year of high school. That will be a concern for some talent evaluators moving forward as he does have such a similar playing style to Rose.

Look Dennis Smith Jr. is one of my favorite players in this draft class, he is exciting, competitive and tough. (See 32 points in Cameron Indoor over Duke in the win).

Bottom Line, if your team drafts Smith come June feel happy, you got yourself a playmaker.

Which Point Guard should the Knicks Take?

By Jack Drapkin

So You’re Telling ME…The Knicks Need a Point Guard?

It looks like Derrick Rose is on his way out of the Big Apple and it is time for Knicks to get a running mate for the Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis. (I know Carmelo is still there, but really c’mon how, how much longer will he be around for after this.)

For purposes of this article let’s assume the lottery plays out true to form and the Knicks select 7th in the draft come June. That means the likely top-two picks, Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, will be off the board and the Knicks will possibly, be left with a choice of Dennis Smith Jr., Frank Ntilikina, and De’Aaron Fox.

Look if you were to ask me who’s the most exciting to watch its Smith hands down. With his array of dribble moves, at the rim athleticism and passing ability, he’ll have no problem finding offensive success at the next level.

Ntilikina probably has the best toolset, although he needs the most work. With a giant 6’9″ wingspan, professional European experience, and a solid 3pt shot, you could make a great argument for Frank as the Knicks Point Guard of the future. Not to mention the European connection to Porzingis, not that matters anymore, Pozingod is a true New Yorker now.

That brings us to Fox. I’ll be the first to admit I was not a fan of Fox at the beginning of the year. Sure he was a blur on the court, but he lacked offensive punch and his defense was inconsistent at best. Fast forward to the end of the year and he was not only a speed demon but an offensive dynamo who aggressively took the fight to Lonzo Ball and UCLA to the tune of 39 points.

So what changed?

Well, for one the aggressive play particularly when looking to create his own shot, yes everyone saw it in the UCLA game, but Fox was the key cog for Kentucky during SEC play, not Malik Monk. Fox’s quickness and ability to score in transition will be huge for a Knicks team that again ranked in the bottom-10 in transition points per game.

I also think that Fox’s length plus quickness give him the highest defensive upside of any Point Guard of this group. Yes, Ntilikina is bigger, but Fox is faster and has already shown glimpses of being a defensive pest.

Now the obvious concern with Fox is his jumper. Having connected on less than 30% of his three pointers and with the move to the NBA, three point line don’t expect this to change anytime soon. However, he did show a feel for a pull-up jumper so the spacing that is provided in the NBA game combined with his speed could help become an effective mid-range shooter early on.

The bottom line is the Knicks need to win, winning starts with defense. Yes, he can’t shoot threes, yet, but Porzingis will help cover that up. Fox gives the Garden the best shot at hanging a banner or heck, making the playoffs anytime soon.

Give me a follow on Twitter if this was even quasi-interesting @NBADraftWhiz.