Point guard is a perhaps the most complex position on a basketball court that takes slightly longer to fully grasp the intricate details of. Though the 2014 NBA Draft is going to be chock full of wing scorers like Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Aaron Gordon and Julius Randle, the sleek new prospects parked in the auction garage, there’s a great point guard who’s not as aesthetically pleasing in the statistics department that may end up being the Hope Diamond to a floundering NBA franchise.
Marcus Smart arrived in Stillwater last August seeking to graduate from Oklahoma State’s accelerated one-year NBA degree program. In March, he was a raw sushi roll. Smart didn’t need one more year of seasoning to become an NBA franchise’s cornerstone. However, that didn’t stop him, as well as teammates Markel Brown and Le’Bryan Nash from announcing their returns in April to Oklahoma State.
Built like a linebacker, Smart is the next great driving point guard to come flowing through the pipeline. As he weaves down into the lane, opposing point guards bounce off of Smart’s bulky 6-4, 220 pound frame with such force he’s become known as neither a point nor a combo guard, but as a “body guard.” Dude's built like him should be blitzing Baylor's Bryce Petty on Saturday, not catching oops as well as he dishes them on the hardwood.
In the post, Smart backs ‘em down, eats ‘em up and spits ‘em back out like a miniature Julius Randle. Peep the 42 and 49 second marks in the video embedded below. He’s got a spin move that’s as refined as Lesean McCoy’s (0:09), is the best rebounding guard in projected for the upcoming draft (0:44) and can run off of screens (1:14) to catch and shoot from downtown (1:34).
Oh and he’s got some of that elite athleticism that harkens back to predecessors like B-Diddy and Derrick Rose.
Six years ago, Rose introduced John Calipari’s dribble-drive motion offense into the national hoops lexicon and left a slew of sprained ankles in his wake en route to igniting Memphis’ offense all the way to the national championship game. As Kansas’ Wiggins gets downgraded from “Next LeBron” to “Baby Paul George” status, Smart could probably empathize after his freshman season. After Smart failed to make the same immediate impact as Rose, he slipped underneath the radar. However, scouts in the know still viewed him as the No. 2 prospect in the NBA Draft class of 2013. Smart had unfinished business though. The kid who’d left his mark on every level of basketball he’d played on was just another face in the background last season.
On Tuesday night, No. 11 Memphis got their bells rung on the other end of a demoralizing defeat, led by a young floor captain when Smart announced his elevation to the next plane of hoops hype existence by slicing through Memphis’ defense like it was perforated paper. By the time Memphis caught their breath, Smart had 24 of Oklahoma State’s first 29 and the rout was on.
In his first litmus test of the season against ranked competition, Smart was corrosive to the Memphis defensive. Almost immediately, he began dissolving Josh Pastner’s defense and piercing through their front line en route to a 21-point win at home.
By the time it was all said and done, Smart had pocketed 39 points, five steals, four assists, two blocks and put the nation on alert that, like Rose’s Memphis squad, No. 7 Oklahoma State was a national championship contender to be reckoned with.
Along the way, they may also be the nation’s best nightly highlight reel, but offense isn’t what fuels the Smart hype machine. Eight days earlier, Smart recorded grand larceny on Utah Valley State by burglarizing the Wolverines nine times – a program record for steals.
It was simply a continuation from his freshman campaign when Smart had Edward Scissorhands type success keeping ballhandlers in check, while finishing fourth nationally in steals per game. His arrival coinciding with Oklahoma State transforming from thir rank outside the top-100 in defensive efficiency to the nation’s 11th–stingiest wasn’t a fluke. For all the MVPs that Steve Nash has on his mantle, his distinct lack of rings can be attributed to his lax defense. Smart’s future All-NBA defensive first-teamer instincts are what scouts covet. A similar spike in Oklahoma State's as well as his his own offensive efficiency has made them a fringe national championship contender.
Oklahoma State’s punch-drunk offense, which was ranked 68th in offensive efficiency last season, used to be a problem, too. After Tuesday night's dominant performance, the Cowboys are the nation’s fourth-highest scoring offense averaging in triple digits and ranked seventh in offensive efficiency.
Opposing offenses already rock Depends adult diapers when they take the floor against Travis Ford’s aggressive trapping defense. Smart’s evolution as a shooter should give defenders nightmares like Elm Street the night before they face the Cowboys.
Kansas has quietly kept the Big 12 under their thumb for nine consecutive years, but with Smart coming into his own along with five of Oklahoma State’s leading scorers, the conference title may be a crap shoot between these two squads. For the past four years, Kevin Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder and the college-town like atmosphere surrounding their franchise was the best hope of bringing a hoops title to Oklahoma. Smart money is now on Oklahoma State.