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.