Marcus Smart is one of the top point guards in the draft. But with point guards Elfrid Payton and Dante Exum being considered in the top 10, and the Suns having multiple picks to possibly trade up, could Marcus Smart be a consideration for Phoenix if he starts to slide?
Smart makes a living inside the paint, as he relishes contact and gets to the free throw line nearly ten times per-40 minutes, while finishing 57% of his shots around the basket in the half-court. The role he will play in the NBA appears to be well defined, as he's very good in transition and on the pick and roll, and is more than capable of creating shots for himself and others, something he appears to have improved on in his sophomore year. Smart's assist to turnover and pure point ratio both increased notably this past season, particularly his ability to avoid coughing the ball up, as his turnover percentage decreased from an alarming 19% as a freshman to a much more manageable 14%.
On the downside, Smart still sports a very inconsistent jump-shot, something that didn't really improve from his freshman to sophomore seasons. His shooting mechanics leave a lot to be desired, as he dips the ball violently, and fades forward and sometimes sideways on his release. That wouldn't be that big of an issue if Smart didn't take as many jumpers as he does—nearly half of his field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, and he hit just 30% of them, many being contested ones early in the shot clock. Smart is not a non-shooter by any stretch, but his poor decision making hampers his percentages significantly. He will have some very ugly low-efficiency nights in the NBA against better-organized defenses until he learns how to reel himself in and plays within his limitations.
Strengths: Strong, heady point guard with great size and instincts…Uses his mixture of quickness, strength, instincts, and aggressiveness to get to the rim, then uses his big frame and excellent body control to finish through contact…In addition to his scoring ability, Smart doubles as an excellent passer and playmaker. He has great court vision and is willing to make the unselfish play to set up his teammates. Averaged 5.8 assists per 40 minutes last season...Very sound perimeter defender who has the length (6'8" wingspan), the strength, and the lateral quickness to keep his man in front of him. Plays hard and harasses ball handlers into making bad decisions. Great rebounding point guard due to his size and strength. Averaged nearly 6 rebound a game last season…His height and his strength also allow him to post up smaller point guards and finish inside...Loves to get out in transition and has the vision and finishing ability to make him elite at running the fast break…Can play with guard position and can also defend multiple positions due to his size/quickness combo
Weaknesses: Not a great outside shooter. Only made 29% from distance last season. Needs to polish his mechanics and hit on a more consistent basis. Struggles mightily on jumpers when guarded. Release slowed by bringing the ball down to his knees before rising up and releasing. Simply needs to be more consistent with his shot mechanics…Opponents will find it easier to stay in front of Smart because they don't have to guard him as tight and respect his jumper…Not a very efficient scorer. Needs to take smarter jump shots and not settle for pull-up threes…Could stand to be more patient and unselfish rather than forcing it and becoming dead-set on taking a shot at times…His assist/turnover ratio of 1.78 is not great. Could certainly cut down on turnovers and be more patient on offense. His aggression can sometimes be a weakness. It also leads to offensive fouls on occasion…Mediocre ballhandler, another source of his turnover problems.
Marcus Smart is a very good player and a top notch competitor. Smart uses his great strength and good size as a point guard to attack the defense and create shots for himself inside, and also find teammates on the perimeter off the drive-and-kick.
Smart is an aggressive player with a very good motor, and he doesn't shy away from contact when driving to the basket. He is another bulldog of a point guard in the same mold as Eric Bledsoe, and his style of play fits perfectly with the other two "Slash Bros." already on the Suns roster.
What Smart lacks in is a consistent shot from outside, which is something he will have to work on as he makes the transition into the NBA. But don't read into this that he can't shoot, or that is shot is "broken" in the sense that it is often used. He can definitely shoot the ball and keep the defense honest. His jump shot development will be more of a refining than an overhaul.
The other issue Smart will have to continue working on is his shot selection. However, that may have been more of a symptom of trying to do to much at Oklahoma St. with lesser talent surrounding him than anything else. He has shown he can make an effective floor general and leader, and when surrounded by other players who can help shoulder the load, he would likely improve in that respect.
As unlikely as it is that the Suns find themselves in a position to draft Marcus Smart, it could still happen. Elfrid Payton has been climbing the mocks lately, and has reportedly gained interest as high as Sacramento who has the eighth pick overall. With many other lottery teams looking to fill a need, rather than drafting the best player available, Smart could end up sliding under certain circumstances.
The Suns have the means to move up into the middle of the lottery, and have already expressed their intention to do so for the right player. With Eric Bledsoe a restricted free agent this summer, and Goran Dragic in the last year of his contract before he can opt out, could Marcus Smart be the right pick for the Suns?