Nick Smith Jr. NBA Draft Analysis
May 18, 2023, 3:14 PM | Updated: Jun 8, 2023, 3:14 pm
SALT LAKE CITY – The Utah Jazz own three first-round selections in the 2023 NBA draft, and one of the players they’ll consider in June is Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr.
With a top 10 pick, the 16th pick, and the 28th pick in the first round, the Jazz will work out an enormous swath of players projected to be selected throughout the draft.
Let’s look at how potential lottery pick NIck Smith Jr. performed in his lone season at Arkansas, and how he’d fit with the Jazz.
Nick Smith Jr. Strengths
Averages: 12.5 ppg | 1.6 RPG | 1.7 APG | 37 FG% | 33 3Pt % | 74 FT%
A top-three recruit in the country coming out of high school, Smith Jr. had a difficult year at Arkansas largely due to fit and injuries, but still managed to flash enough potential to put him in the conversation as a top 15 pick.
Smith Jr. has a long lean frame that when mixed with his tight ball handling allows him to get to his spots on the floor where he can pull up and shoot over smaller defenders.
At 6-foot-5, Smith Jr. turns the corner above the perimeter incredibly well before stopping on a dime to create a shot in the midrange.
Nick Smith Jr had plenty of encouraging sequences vs Florida despite 4-12 stat line. Handles with a bounce to step, hesitations that get defenders leaning back. OTD footwork to create separation. Great finishing/touch off 1 foot. Plays with energy. Engaged on D. Missed makable Js pic.twitter.com/RKuXAmYLEy
— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) February 20, 2023
The Arkansas freshman has the quick-twitch athleticism that traditionally thrives with NBA spacing.
Though his assist totals were bizarrely low for a guard that played 26 minutes per game, he clearly has better vision on film than his averages would imply.
Smith Jr. regularly looked to throw alley-oops after breaking down the defense, but didn’t have a legitimate lob threat to finish the play.
Similarly, Arkansas was one of the worst three-point shooting teams in all of college basketball, meaning that a difficult mid-range look from Smith Jr. was a more viable option than kicking the ball out to one of his Razorback teammates.
Nick Smith Jr. Weaknesses
Physically Smith Jr. must get stronger to handle the rigors of the NBA. The freshman is extremely slight which causes him to shy away from contact, and get pushed out of plays on defense.
Smith Jr. is extremely quick but played almost exclusively below the rim in college, which may have been due to a knee injury that caused him to miss a significant chunk of the season.
Regardless, he doesn’t use height to his advantage near the rim.
Nick Smith Jr. is BACK! @lif3nick
The freshman looked really good tonight in a win against Georgia.
– 26 PTS
– 9-14 FG
– 5-8 3PT pic.twitter.com/zkSpCfZdTw
— B/R Hoops (@brhoops) February 22, 2023
Despite his strong ability to create shots for himself, they rarely went in at an efficient rate. Smith Jr. made more than two three-pointers only three times in his 17 appearances in college and shot better than 40 percent from the floor only seven times.
Even with Arkansas’s aggressive defensive style, Smith Jr. averaged less than a steal per game, a low number for a college guard.
Backcourt players don’t need to be dominant rebounders in the NBA every night, but it’s helpful in the playoffs, and Smith Jr. may never be even average on the glass for a shooting guard due to his frame.
Nick Smith Jr. Overall
It’s difficult to watch Smith Jr. at Arkansas and not wonder if he just happened to be on one of the most ill-fitting rosters for his skillset in all of college basketball.
Playing alongside fellow lottery-bound point guard Anthony Black, Smith Jr. played off the ball more than he would have on some other roster and was surrounded almost entirely by non-shooters.
The NBA Draft is fast approaching, and we're breaking down the top prospects on the board.
— KSL Sports (@kslsports) May 11, 2023
Had Smith Jr. played on a team that spaced the floor, and allowed him to drive into the paint without meeting a crowd of defenders, his shooting efficiency and assist numbers might have been significantly better, regardless of injuries.
Due to his poor numbers overall, Smith Jr. likely isn’t in contention for a top-10 pick. However, based on his talent level coming out of high school, and with a game better suited for NBA spacing, don’t be surprised if the Arkansas product outperforms several players drafted in the lottery ahead of him.
Where Will Nick Smith Jr. Get Drafted?
Due to his underwhelming freshman season but still intriguing potential, Smith Jr. will likely be selected as high as pick eight to the Washington Wizards to as low as pick 20 with the Houston Rockets.
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