Dennis Smith NBA Draft Profile


Dennis Smith Jr., Freshman, Guard, N.C. State



Dennis Smith Jr. and the Wolfpack of N.C. State had a remarkably disappointing season, but the 6-3 guard remains a lottery-caliber prospect. Despite his team finishing with a 15-17 record, including a 4-14 mark in the ACC, Smith still earned ACC Rookie of the Year honors behind his 18.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game. Smith is a top notch athlete whose leaping ability, quick burst and creativity mixed with his strong frame make him an appealing prospect.

Smith constantly threatens defenses with his ability to attack in transition, in the pick-and-roll and at the rim. He’s especially dangerous in the open floor. He can snag a rebound at one end, fly down the court, and easily get to the rim or distribute to an open teammate. In the half court, Smith orchestrates the pick-and-roll wonderfully. He has a decidedly quick first step that puts pressure on the defense. He’s able to split defenders that aren’t decisive or can punish big men who switch onto him by driving right by them. He’s got a tight handle on the ball and uses a wide array of dribble moves to probe the defense on his way to the rim. If the defender sags off or goes under the screen, Smith is comfortable hitting pull-up jumpers. He also displays excellent vision and can whip passes around the court with either hand. There’s no good way to defend him when he’s on his game.

Smith’s athleticism alone makes him an NBA-ready player. He uses his quickness to drive in either direction and gets to the rim at will. If defenders have to closeout on Smith, he can attack them with a strong dribble into a pull-up jumper or blow right past them on his way to the bucket. He’s acrobatic when he gets to the lane, which is necessary because of his average 6-3 wingspan. Smith does draw and absorb contact well as he gets extremely difficult shots on the rim, but he needs to finish those attempts with more regularity. He also used his aggressiveness to get to the free throw line often, with more than six FTA per game.

For as much skill as Smith possesses, he still needs to become more of a true point guard. Smith is a smart passer, but he needs to become a floor general and a better leader on the court. Bad offensive spacing at N.C. State certainly contributed to Smith’s poor habits of dribbling the air out of the ball or forcing up early, difficult shots. However, Smith will need to display more willingness to play within an offense and not look for his own buckets first and foremost. Against Louisville and Florida State, teams with NBA-caliber length, Smith failed to score more than eight points in both games and was clearly affected by the pressure those defenses put on him. In the game against Louisville, a 25 point loss, Smith was 3-of-12 from the floor with five turnovers. Smith will be facing length and pressure like that every game in the NBA, so he will need to learn to become more poised.

Two major areas where Smith needs to show improvement is his three-point shooting and his defense. He projects well in both areas, but the production on the court wasn’t there at N.C. State. He shot 35.9% from three on almost five attempts per game, but his mechanics and results were inconsistent. He likes to float in the air on jumpers, almost shooting the ball on the way down at times. His form makes him much more confident pulling up off the dribble, but those shots are typically quite difficult to get to. He is skillful at creating space for himself, which gives him room for those pull-up jumpers. He will need to become a more comfortable and consistent shooter to pressure defenders, not allowing them to sag off or go under ball screens. Defensively, Smith can be a pest guarding the ball when he’s dialed in. He averaged nearly two steals a game, displaying quick hands and reading of passing lanes. The problem is that he was rarely ever in a stance defensively. He often looked indifferent towards playing defense, just going through the motions until getting back on offense. With his average height and wingspan, Smith will only be able to matchup with point guards in the NBA, so he will need to be more regularly locked in on the defensive end.


Final Projection:

Dennis Smith Jr. has an all-star level NBA ceiling with his phenomenal athletic ability, quickness and skill with the ball. He can attack defenses in a variety of ways and is especially dangerous in space, of which he should have more opportunities in the NBA. Scouts will likely be concerned about his contributions to N.C. State’s lousy season, but there’s no questioning his raw talent. He did tear his ACL in 2015, but has shown no limitations or lack of explosiveness since the injury. Once Smith is in an NBA offense surrounded by superior shooters and athletes than what he had in college, his skills should become even more substantial. Smith should hear his name called in the top ten on draft night. As long as he shows a willingness to become a better leader and defender, there’s no reason he shouldn’t become at least a quality starting point guard in the NBA.



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