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Steven Smith NBA Draft Scouting Report
by:
April 18, 2006
Strengths
Measuring in at the Chicago pre-draft camp last June at 6-8 ĺ in shoes with a 7 foot wingspan and 8-10 standing reach, Smith has ample size to play either forward position in the NBA. He is not an incredibly explosive athlete, but is a highly coordinated; the type of player who is never off balance, has excellent reflexes, and moves very smoothly on the court. The type of minutes he plays (last season an astounding 39.6 of a possible 40, this year 36 per game) tells you all you need to do about his level of conditioning.

Offensively, Smith is the definition of a mismatch at the college level, scoring nearly 2200 total points in his four year college career in 117 games, or close to 19 points a game on average each season. He gets most of his points simply by outsmarting and outworking his opponents, doing a great job of playing to his strengths and taking advantage of the oppositionsí weaknesses.

Smith is an opportunistic scorer, the type of player thatís always in the right place at the right time and can score in many different ways from all over the court. His bread and butter at the college level is his mid-range game, usually being able to take advantage of his height advantage to release the ball from a high release point and with pretty fluid mechanics; with excellent results. Smith sets excellent screens and is very good moving off the ball, knowing how to utilize his teammatesí screens effectively as well to cause even further mismatches. Smith will be a very effective pick and pop threat in the NBA if his coach decides to utilize that part of his game.

Smith is his teamís go-to guy, and acts like it too, constantly asking for the ball, looking to get himself in position to score, and shouldering much of his teamís scoring load in a very unselfish manner. Smith likes to go to work right outside the paint on the baseline with his back to the basket, slithering around defenders with his quickness if they get too close or elevating over the top of them for a turnaround jump-shot if he has even an inch of daylight. If his shot isnít there or the double team comes (they always do), Smith displays an excellent basketball IQ passing the ball out of the post or from the perimeter to find the open man. He is extremely unselfish and will only force the issue when his team absolutely needs him to, which happens all too often unfortunately. He averages 2.5 assists per game, but would finish every game with twice as many if his teammates did a better job of finishing around the rim or knocking down open shots.

If given space--which is extremely rare considering his status as far as opposing defenses are concerned--Smith will knock down shots out to the college 3-point line and sometimes even beyond with his feet set.

Even though his turnovers on paper look to be very high (3.6 per game), this has more to do with his teamís grind it out style of play and the fact that heís usually the one asked to go out of his element and create something out of nothing at the end of possessions with the shot clock running down. In the NBA heíll likely be known as the type of player who doesnít make many mistakes and will never hurt his team on the offensive end.

Defensively, Smith does an adequate job for the most part at the college level, but is in no position to wear himself out physically or get into foul trouble considering how important he is to his teamís efforts. His team plays plenty of zone to make sure this isnít an issue, which makes him a little more difficult to evaluate. If needed, Smith will hit the deck for loose balls, setting an example for his teammates despite the fact that he is the teamís unquestioned star.

Another strong suit of his is his rebounding ability. Smithís size, excellent wingspan and standing reach, terrific hands, high basketball IQ and the toughness he shows on the floor make him a force in this area. He doesnít always play near the basket, but still managed to come up with a very solid 8 rebounds per game this season.

In terms of intangibles, there isnít a whole lot you can ask for here. Smith is the kind of guy who seems to have ďfigured it out,Ē possessing an excellent attitude both on and off the court to go along with a terrific work ethic. As mentioned, his feel for the game is outstanding, as are his leadership skills, being the type of player who leads both with his voice as well as by example. In his senior year he took a young team without much talent on his back and carried them to a surprising 10-6 record in the Atlantic 10 (good for 3rd in the conference) and an 18-10 record overall.


Weaknesses
Smith is not the type of player who can play for any team in any system, as his skill-set does not really fit the mold of either a true NBA small forward or power forward. Calling him a tweener would not be a terrible way to describe his game.

There are some questions about how he will be able to score points in the NBA if playing for a coach that isnít willing to take advantage of his skills by not calling the right plays for him. He is neither a traditional back to the basket scorer due to his lack of height, post moves or significant bulk. He also wonít be a shot-creator at the next level on the perimeter as his ball-handling skills are fairly average for a small forward and he lacks an explosive first step to consistently beat his man off the dribble. Nor is he a prolific outside shooter, hitting only 26 3-pointers on the season at a very average 34% clip.

Those are essentially his three biggest weaknesses. His athleticism is solid, but not great. His ball-handling skills have greatly improved over the past few years, but still have a ways to go. His 3-point shooting ability is very average, as his release isnít particularly quick and he loses significant consistency when be asked to shoot off the dribble.

In terms of his defense there are also some question marks, as he lacks the footspeed or experience to consistently guard the perimeter as well as the size and bulk to handle some of the more physical power forwards in the post.

Smith is a 5th year senior who will turn 24 in April. Keeping that in mind, NBA scouts will likely say that what you see is probably what you get at this point with him. That lack of upside especially could be the thing that prevents him from going in the first round.


Competition
Smith plays for LaSalle in the Atlantic 10, a conference that is caught somewhere between the "Big 6" power conferences and the mid-majors. The conference sent two teams to the NCAA tournament this year in George Washington and Xavier.

LaSalle had an outstanding season by their standards, moving right along in their rebuilding process under Head Coach Dr. John Giannini after the controversy that surrounded the school a year earlier (read below) and forced the head coach to resign.

Smith was once again named Atlantic 10 player of the year, averaging just under 20 points and 8 rebounds, with 2.5 assists, 3.6 turnovers, 1.1 steals, .8 blocks, and shooting 48.6% from the field, 33.8% 3P and 77.3% FT.

The only notable team LaSalle played in their out of conference schedule was Villanova, and Smith had a game he would probably like to forget. He scored 13 points, pulled down 8 rebounds, with 3 assists, 8 turnovers and shooting 5/14 from the field. Villanova beat their in-city Philly rivals by 41 points.

In his junior year, LaSalle finished 5-11 (tied for last in the A-10 West) in conference play (10-19 overall) which
should tell you all you need to know about the team Smith played for. They only had 7 players on scholarship, though, as three former teammates (including LaSalle's starting backcourt) of his were charged with raping a member of the Woman's basketball team before the season started.

As a junior he averaged 21 points (44.5% FG, 31% 3P), 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.7 blocks and 4.6 turnovers in 39.6 minutes per game. Against the 3 strongest teams Smith went up against that season, he put up fairly good numbers. 27 points (8-13 FG, 2-3 3P), 11 rebounds, 2 assists against USC; 19 points (6-15 FG, 1-3 3P), 8 rebounds against Villanova; and 35 points (13-23 FG, 2-5 3P) 7 rebounds against Cincinnati in Smith's best game of the year statistically. He played in all but 22 minutes out of the 1,570 minutes his team played as a junior.

He has been very productive throughout his career and his improved his numbers across the board from year to year.

Outlook
Smith doesnít seem to be the type of player that scouts will get extraordinarily excited about because of the things he CANíT do, but there is plenty that he does do well to allow him to carve out a niche for himself as a role player in the NBA, should he fall into the right situation. His stock was at an all-time high last summer after being possibly the best player at the Chicago pre-draft camp, certainly from a statistical standpoint, but also just in the way that he managed to get the job done quietly and efficiently without forcing the issue in such a tough setting. He probably would have been drafted somewhere between 25-40 had he stayed in last year, but another year in college with slightly better numbers (a few less points, better FG% and 3P%, more assists, less turnovers, more wins) hasnít affected his stock all that much. Thatís the plight of a college senior in a nutshell. Heís projected as an early-to-mid second rounder at this point, but a team drafting in the late first round could certainly fall in love with as a role-playing contributor that can come in and play right way.

Comments
USC's then-coach Henry Bibby: "He's a no-miss as a pro player. He's definitely a first-round pick. He's one of the best small forwards I've seen at 6-8, and he can play a lot of positions and do a lot of things."

Facts
Shared Atlantic 10 player of the year honors as a junior with St. Joe's guard Pat Carroll.

Won the award outright as a senior.

After initially not qualifying for college basketball under Prop 48, Smith graduated with a business administration degree following his junior season.


 


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