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Marcus Smart: Intense, Confident and Ready To Lead

Marcus Smart endured a difficult Sophomore season at Oklahoma State, but appears ready to place it all behind him as he looks toward the future.

Jabari Davis

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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.”

Jabari Davis is a senior NBA Writer and Columnist for Basketball Insiders, covering the Pacific Division and NBA Social Media activity.

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  1. Pingback: 2014 NBA Mock Draft: Best Possible Moves for Each 1st-Round Team | Rockets Basketball

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NBA Daily: Lessons From The 2018 NBA Draft

After a wild 2018 NBA Draft, here are four lessons and storylines worth watching over the next few years.

Ben Nadeau

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Now that the dust has settled on an unpredictable NBA Draft — what exactly have we learned? In amongst the unrelenting rumors, refused workouts and surprise reaches, there are a few key takeaways from Brooklyn. Of course, some of these are one-off instances, but others are definitely part of modern-day draft patterns. While draft night may sometimes seem like complete chaos or chance, each scenario on this rundown has been boiling over for weeks. Between passing on a talented prospect to letting an injured one slide, here are four important lessons from the 2018 NBA Draft.

Luka Dončić… Not The No. 1?

For months and months, it appeared as if Luka Dončić was poised to become the No. 1 overall pick in this draft. Even today, it’s hard to believe that somebody with Dončić’s age and resume wasn’t the top selection. In 2017-18 alone, the Slovenian took home EuroLeague MVP and Finals MVP plus ACB MVP, with championships in both leagues to boot — but here we are. Dončić averaged 14.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.1 steals over just 25 minutes per game, quickly transforming into the most well-rounded overseas prospect of all-time. But as impressive as Dončić was throughout the spring, the potential ceilings of both DeAndre Ayton and Marvin Bagley III eventually won out.

At 7-foot-1, Ayton’s 20.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.9 blocks per game were undeniably worthy of a top selection too, pairing well alongside Devin Booker and Josh Jackson for the foreseeable future. While the jury is still out on Bagley III — his defense needs some major fine-tuning — he won’t take key touches away from De’Aaron Fox either. More or less, nobody wants to be the organization to miss on such a franchise-altering pick. The Suns, Kings and even the Hawks may eventually regret passing on Dončić, but when general managers’ entire careers can depend on making the right choice at the right time, it’s not difficult to understand why the top of the draft unfolded as it did.

Playing Hard To Get Doesn’t Always Work Out…

As draft boards began to take shape, there was one particularly interesting situation sitting at No. 4 overall. Jaren Jackson Jr., solidly leading the second tier of prospects, was looking like a lock at the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick — but with one major caveat: Jackson Jr. reportedly didn’t work out or give his medical information to the franchise. After he was drafted, Jackson Jr. called those rumors “a tad out of context” — but, obviously, those are some massive red flags. Either way, Memphis went with their gut and selected the talented forward anyway.

But beyond all that, Memphis absolutely made the right move by sticking to their guns. Putting a modern three-point shooting, defensive-minded athlete next to Marc Gasol should prove to be an absolute nightmare for years to come. Naturally, Jackson Jr. will get plenty of easy looks from the stellar Mike Conley Jr. too — so if the draftee was once apprehensive, surely that will pass soon. Still, it reflects on a larger NBA pattern, wherein which prospective athletes sensibly look to mold their own path out of college. With players trying to control their draft narratives more than ever, it’s reassuring to see that some franchises will take their target first and then figure out the rest.

We may never know Jackson Jr.’s full thought process behind not working out for the Grizzlies, but there’s a great chance that the former Spartan was made for Memphis’ tough brand of basketball — and we should all be glad we’ll get to see it.

…But Injuries Will Lead To A Slide

Michael Porter Jr. — what a year for him, huh?

After missing out on much of his only collegiate season due to back surgery, Porter Jr. promised that he was feeling better than ever. But over the last month, scouts and front offices were treated to canceled workouts and hazy uncertainty. And, at the end of the day, it probably scared a handful of franchises away from the talented scorer. Just this week, the Kings heavily considered Porter Jr. at No. 2 overall — but even with that sudden unlikelihood passing by, few thought he’d drop out of the top ten altogether. Outside of the guaranteed money that Porter Jr. will miss out on, redshirting his rookie year may also be on the table as well.

The inherent upside with Porter Jr. is obvious, but — similarly to the Dončić issue — it’s tough to ask franchise officials to stake their livelihood on the prospect’s health. If Porter Jr.’s lingering issues stay with him and he never reaches his mountain of potential, that’s a tough pill to swallow. The 19-year-old would fall all the way down to No. 14, where the Denver Nuggets gladly scooped him up. During the combine in May, Porter Jr. called himself the best player in the draft — but it’s now up to him to prove them all wrong.

The Mysterious Men Nearly Miss Out

Let’s rewind to early April. Villanova had been just crowned NCAA champions for the second time in three years, the NBA playoffs were soundly on the horizon and mock drafts had begun to consistently pour out. Early on, there were two athletic big men that looked like shoo-ins as first-rounders: Robert Williams and Mitchell Robinson. Despite their undercooked skill-sets, both players pulled out of the combine and then waited for the hype to build — except, well, it didn’t. Williams, who was typically projected in the early teens, slipped out of the lottery entirely, only to be rescued by the Boston Celtics at No. 27. Williams is a booming, powerful prospect, but he could’ve really benefited from competing against the other top prospects in May.

Although he’s now landed in an ideal situation with Brad Stevens, Al Horford and a process-driven Celtics squad, Williams likely cost himself a whole load of money over the last 30-plus days as well.

In Robinson’s case, many believed his floor was the Los Angeles Lakers at No. 25 — rumors swirling that the 7-foot-1 center even received a promise from the illustrious franchise. Instead, Robinson dropped to the New York Knicks at No. 36 overall. Robinson had originally committed to Western Kentucky in July of 2017 before dropping out to prepare for the draft. After skipping the combine last month, Robinson indeed exhibited the potential to be both a steady shot-blocker and three-point maker during his individual evaluations. But with little to go off of but high school highlight reels and small session workout tapes, he understandably fell.

Sometimes the hype is impossible to ignore, but not participating in the combine and staying as mysterious as possible hurt these ultra-talented prospects.

While the 2018 NBA Draft wasn’t quite the trade-heavy, drama-laden extravaganza much of the world expected, there are plenty of narratives to reflect upon. At the end of the day, the ink is barely dry on this year’s festivities and it’ll be some time before there’s any indication of these successes or failures. Still, there are lessons to be learned from every draft, workout or injury process and these are four conversations worth considering as the NBA quickly rolls into the summer league season.

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VIDEO: 2018 NBA Draft Winners

Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may have done better than expected.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may have done better than expected.

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Insiders Video

VIDEO: 2018 NBA Draft Losers

Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may not have done as well as expected.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Benny Nadeau and Moke Hamilton break down the 2018 NBA Draft, including the teams and players that may not have done as well as expected.

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