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Today we continue our yearly look at players the Celtics should have an eye on ahead of the NBA Draft. Check out our profile of another candidate for the sixth overall pick, Kentucky PF Julius Randle, right here. For another PG Boston could take later in the first round, read about UCLA’s Kyle Anderson here.
Name: Marcus Smart
College: Oklahoma State
Position: Point guard
Stats: 6’4″, 220 lbs.
Smart burst onto the scene as a freshman in 2012-13, becoming a starter from day one and averaging 15.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 3 steals per game for Oklahoma State. That year, he was the USBWA National Freshman of the Year, a Second-Team All-American, and the Big 12 Conference Player of the Year, becoming just the third freshman to win that award after Kevin Durant and Michael Beasley.
Already considered a top prospect, Smart nevertheless decided to return for his sophomore year after the Cowboys failed to win a game in the NCAA Tournament. His 2013-14 numbers were even more impressive, at 18 points, 5.9 boards, 4.8 dimes and 2.9 steals in 32.7 minutes per game.
The Cowboys went 21-13 and finished in a disappointing eighth place in the Big 12, but still earned a ninth seed in the NCAA Tournament after battling top-ranked Kansas in a 77-70 overtime loss in the conference tournament quarterfinal. OSU once again was eliminated in the Round of 64, by #8 Gonzaga, in an 85-77 defeat where the Cowboys only ever had a chance thanks to Smart, who put up a big double-double with 23 points and 13 rebounds, along with seven assists and six steals.
Smart is easily the best pure point guard available in the 2014 Draft (there are questions as to the natural position of Australian prospect Dante Exum, who is expected to go in the top four). Smart is a big, physical player, whose size doesn’t detract from his speed. He’s also a very tenacious defender, which is an element the Celtics always look for in players.
Whatever the future holds for the Celtics’ current PG Rajon Rondo, they can’t really go wrong with Smart. He is one of the most NBA-ready players in this draft at any position and his only glaring weakness, much like Rondo’s, is his outside shooting – he shot just 29% from three-point territory last season. Casual college basketball fans will know Smart best for being suspended three games in February after shoving a loud-mouthed Texas Tech fan in the stands, but by all accounts that was a one-time incident and not a reflection of any deeper character issues.
The Rondo rumors will likely continue beyond the Draft, and won’t stop until he’s traded or signs an extension, but Celtics fans, and the front office, would rest a lot easier with Smart in the fold, preferably as Rondo’s backup in 2014-15.