Even though Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart isn’t currently being talked about as a top-three pick, as he would have been in last year’s draft, he remains confident that his name belongs among the class’ top prospects.
“I love competition,” Smart told Basketball Insiders while attending the NBA’s 2014 Draft Combine. “It’s what makes me into the person I am. I’m a competitor and I’m a fierce competitor.”
Few who have watched Smart’s game develop over the past two years at Oklahoma State would have questioned this, as his intensity and relentless approach when on the court are precisely what make him such a threat. At just 20 years old, Smart has already learned some valuable lessons about maintaining focus and remaining professional while under fire. Keep in mind, Smart was the player that got into that unfortunate incident with an opposing fan back in February in the midst of what ended up being a tumultuous sophomore season for Smart and the Cowboys. He did produce an impressive 18 PPG, 5.9 RPG and 4.8 APG, but his Cowboys weren’t as successful as anticipated, nonetheless.
Although the incident is certainly something he’ll have to talk about when meeting with teams at the combine, Smart willingly served his three-game suspension and accepted full responsibility for his actions prior to returning and closing his final stretch of college games with several well-rounded efforts.
“[February’s incident is] something that happened that’s in the past,” Smart said. “I’m not proud of it, but I’m trying to move on from that. I got bigger and better things to look forward to in my life, and if I’m too busy looking in the past, how can I see what’s in front of me in the future?”
At just 6’3.25, Smart may not be quite as tall as he was listed in college, but his freakish athleticism and 6’9.35 wingspan are still comparable, if not better than the other point guards in the class. His size (227 pounds) and frame have garnered comparisons that range anywhere from Jarrett Jack to Dwyane Wade, but Smart might actually be a truer match to a bulkier and stronger version of what Russell Westbrook looked like when he left UCLA with questions about his both his shot and playmaking ability at the next level. Similar questions about whether he’s a tweener that lacks enough natural playmaking ability to man the point in the NBA continue to circulate, but Smart actually credits his return for a second year as a reason why he believes he is ready for the challenge of leading a team in the NBA.
Open to playing anywhere, Smart has been in contact with the Raptors, Rockets, Lakers, Suns and Nuggets among others. Like most prospects, Smart simply revels at the opportunity to walk across the stage to be congratulated by NBA commissioner Adam Silver, but he acknowledges some teams may be better fits than others.
“The [Lakers are] interested,” Smart said. “I’ve seen that. They found out a little bit more about me – not just as a player, but as a person. They were very interested… I think it would be a good fit. They’re looking for a point guard. Someone that can come in and man that team and take control, and you know that’s the type of person I am. I’m a leader, and I feel like it would be a perfect fit.”
We’ll have to wait until next Tuesday’s Draft Lottery to find out where particular teams will be slated to make selections (barring trades), but it is clear teams like the Lakers and Magic are likely to be in the market for a point guard come June 26. Both the Magic and Lakers appear to have interest in Dante Exum as well, meaning it could very well end up being a case where Smart goes to whichever team ends up with the later pick in the event both teams have him ranked behind the lesser-known international prospect.
We may not be certain where any of the top prospect may end up, but we can be certain Smart possesses the confidence within himself it takes to compete at the top level.
“That’s the fun about going and becoming a draft pick,” Smart said. “That’s the whole fun behind it. You don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know who’s picking where. It just keeps the anticipation up… This isn’t supposed to be a stressful time. This is supposed to be a fun time. It only happens once, if you’re lucky enough to get to this part of the combine to get to the draft. It only happens once, so you need to enjoy it.”