Draft Week: Nolan Smith

The 2011 NBA Draft will soon be upon us, and the Nets are starting to carve out a list of prospects. This week, Nets are Scorching takes a look at the players the Nets might select.

College Stats: 34.0 MPG, 20.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG, 5.1 APG, 0.1 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 45.8 FG%, 81.3 FT%, 35.0 3P%

There are two things that you think of almost immediate when you hear/read Nolan Smith’s name – jerk and hatred. Okay, maybe that’s more from North Carolina fans, but in all seriousness, the two things you think of (or should think) are leadership and basketball IQ. Smith is the rare four-year college player heading into the draft and it’s not any sort of regular four years, but four years at the storied Duke program where Smith won a national championship in 2010.

Smith doesn’t have any sort of skills or physical ability that jumps out at you, but he’s a plethora of non-stop effort, toughness, and doing a bit of everything. During his senior season, Irving took over the point guard position after super-frosh and projected first overall pick, Kyrie Irving, injured himself. Looking at the numbers, Smith did pretty well and garnered Player of the Year consideration, but had to settle for being a First Team All-American.

Smith has the tools to succeed as an NBA point guard, if that position was the old school version. Today’s point guards are explosive and can drop 20+ points on the regular, which Smith won’t do at the next level. However, with starter minutes and being with the right team, a 14 points/7 assists ceiling is possible. Smith doesn’t have any sort of burst, but will get by on his heady decision-making on his shot, whether to attack the rack hard or to throw up a teardrop. He’s proven that he could run a team and should continue to improve at the NBA level, despite being a senior and convention saying that the upside is minimal. Not so as Smith wasn’t always a point guard exclusively. His experience at the shooting guard position gives Smith some versatility in his game. Defensively, Smith has nice length, good instincts, and can play the passing lanes.

Quotable (on what the NBA wants and what he can give)

“I definitely feel like we’re all first-rounders,” said Smith. “One, I think that we’re all winners and that’s what the NBA is looking for. The NBA wants winners and somebody that’s going to come and bring a winning attitude and a winning feel to a locker room and to an organization. They’re also getting players that can just play the game, can do different things, very versatile… We just want to play basketball and win.”

Final Thoughts: Smith is a solid player and will start his career on the bench, which would work out nicely for the Nets. He’d provide solid minutes and if, heaven forbid, Deron Williams should bolt, Smith would be a capable stopgap for the next star point guard the Nets would surely crave. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that.

In Jordan Farmar, you have a shoot-first lead guard. Despite being a huge fan of Sundiata Gaines, he still has a lot to prove. Smith is indubitably about team and is more polished than most players coming into the A from college. If he gets a chance to learn from the bench and play against Deron Williams everyday, Smith will learn quickly and just as fast translate that into production.