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March 23, 2013

Comparing Smart to the top point guards of the last four years

There's no telling when Oklahoma State freshman Marcus Smart will decide if he's going to the NBA or staying in Stillwater for another year.

He didn't even hint at when his decision would be made. It could be tomorrow, it could be after the tournament's over, or it could be a little later in the semester.

He's projected to be a lottery pick after just one season, which is a Top 10 pick in the NBA Draft, and has already been pegged as a promising prospect for any NBA team that he falls to.

But how does he stack up against other point guards?

Let's break it down a little bit. Each of the last three years, there have been point guards taken in the Top 10 of the NBA Draft, and Smart will likely be as well if he opts for that route. It's also likely that Michigan sophomore Trey Burke will be in the draft class and lottery as well, so I have also included him.

So where does Smart rank against household names like John Wall, Kyrie Irving, and Damian Lillard?

Pick
2010: John Wall, Kentucky, 1st pick, Washington Wizards
2011: Kyrie Irving, Duke 1st pick, Cleveland Cavaliers
2012: Damian Lillard, Weber State, 6th pick, Portland Trail Blazers

Two first-overall picks and a sixth pick. Not bad company for Smart to be compared to, as he likely will if he goes pro. Wall and Irving entered the draft after their freshman seasons while Lillard played three years. I'll be using Lillard's junior season stats for this breakdown.

Points Per Game
1. Lillard, 24.5 ppg
2. Burke, 19.2 ppg
3. Irving, 17.5 ppg
4. Wall, 16.6 ppg
5. Smart, 15.4 ppg

Although Smart is the last player on the list, he isn't exactly out of their league. Smart had two share shots with both Markel Brown and a streaky Le'Bryan Nash, and when those guys got rolling, Smart knew not to try and push the envelope. Not too big of a deal to be last on this list.

Assists Per Game
1. Burke, 6.7 apg
2. Wall, 6.5 apg
3. Irving, 4.3 apg
4. Smart, 4.2 apg
5. Lillard, 4.0 apg

Smart's average is solid here, but a little on the low end for what you want out of an NBA point. He had games when he was dishing dimes like it was nothing, but he didn't have an offensive-minded front court like almost every other player above him on this list did, which hurt him. He still showed he was capable of finding the open man, which is the biggest deal for a top point guard. The rest of it is in the offense that's being run, which isn't exactly built around assists at Oklahoma State.

Rebounds Per Game
1. Smart, 5.7 rpg
2. Lillard, 5.0 rpg
3. Wall, 4.3 rpg
4. Irving, 3.4 rpg
5. Burke, 3.1 rpg

This is where Smart sets himself apart from other guards. He's built like a two-guard in the height department (listed at 6'4), but built like a linebacker in the weight department (listed at 225lbs). He's capable of getting to the block and boxing out, and has a knack for timing the ball off the rim. That stat will be talked about a ton, and will likely stick out to the NBA scouts if he's in this draft class.

Turnovers Per Game
1. Wall, 4.0
2. Smart, 3.4
3. Irving, 2.5
4. Burke, 2.4
5. Lillard 2.3

Not a list you want to be at the top of, and Smart had issues with turnovers at times this season. Those are relatively low numbers for all of them though, and turnovers will come when you're the primary ball-handler for your team no matter how good you are. That's just how basketball goes.

Shooting Percentage
1. Irving, 52.9% (46.2% 3-point)
2. Wall, 46.1% (32.5% 3FG)
3. Burke, 47.1% (38.9% 3FG)
4. Lillard, 46.7% (40.9% 3FG)
5. Smart, 40.4% (29.0% 3FG)

This is Smart's biggest issue in his game. He's an average jump shooter at best, and with the pick-and-rolls and isolation game that the NBA loves, it's something he'll have to put a ton of work in on. He's strong to the basket and gets a ton of put-back points off of offensive rebounds, but the rest of his game struggles mightily, especially when he's compared to this group.

Steals Per Game
1. Smart, 3.0 spg
2. Wall, 1.8 spg
3. Burke, 1.6 spg
T4. Lillard, 1.5 spg
T4. Irving, 1.5 spg

Even with his bigger frame, Smart is solid on the defensive end even against smaller guards. He times passes and dribbles well, and can rip the ball without a lot of contact. The NBA has the best ball handlers around, obviously, but if Smart can do anything close to what he did in college ball, he'll get high grades in the defensive category, and this is one of the only stats that will show why.

The only other part of his game you can't measure and compare is attitude. Smart's a proven-winner, as are most of these other guys, and just finds a way to get his team out on top no matter how high the odds are. Pull tape from their visit to Kansas or their home game against Iowa State if you need a refresher.

What do you think about how the freshman stacks up? Do you think his averages are good enough compared to the best point guards of the last four years? Do you think there are any glaring weaknesses based on this?




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