|Team: Penn St|
H: 6' 9"|
W: 240 lbs
(36 Years Old)
Current: F |
High School: Lake Forest HS
Hometown: Lake Forest, IL
After entertaining the idea of keeping his name in the draft last season, Tyler Smith returns to Knoxville looking to rehash his draft resume and solidify his stock. Emerging on the national radar after a productive season at Iowa as a true freshman, Smith is largely a known commodity at this point. His 17.4 points and 5.8 rebounds 3.4 assists per-game average last season only reinforced the perception of his ability to produce on the NCAA level. With the Volunteers returning essentially their entire core, Smith is in position to lead Bruce Pearl's squad to a great deal of success. However, he’ll need to show considerable improvement in a number of areas to make his resume more attractive from an NBA perspective.
Before we delve into the things that Smith needs to work on, let’s first look at some of his assets as a player. Sporting a near 6-10 wingspan, Smith possesses very nice size for the three spot, which coupled with good overall athleticism and impressive lateral quickness, give him a great deal of defensive upside on the NBA level. In addition to benefiting from what Trevor Ariza and Mickael Pietrus accomplished in the playoffs last season, Smith is also an efficient offensive threat thanks to his assertiveness at the rim, ability to draw contact, and very solid work ethic. Highly versatile and developing as a perimeter scorer, Smith is much closer to being a legitimate small forward than he once was, but would benefit immensely from improvements in a few key areas.
Nearly doubling the number of jump shots he took per-game from his sophomore year to his junior year, Smith’s desire to expand his scoring range was met with mixed results. His main issues as a shooter are the absence of timing and rhythm in his release, a consistent lack of elevation, a long shooting motion, and only adequate footwork. Coupling those issues with the way Smith approaches scoring from the perimeter and it isn’t hard to see why he shot only 29.2% from three-point range while converting nearly 48% of his shots inside the arc. The best thing Smith could do for his stock this season would be to showcase improved perimeter footwork and shooting mechanics.
Though Smith’s shooting doesn’t look very good on paper, he doesn’t display a terribly poor shot selection. In fact, he seldom takes contested jumpers from the outside. Unfortunately, more than half of Smith’s jump shots, open or otherwise, come from beyond the arc according to Synergy Sports Technology. Additionally, less than 3% of his attempts come from outside of 17-feet but inside the three point line. Smith seems to be pressing, and actively trying to show his range at the expense of his efficiency and midrange game. Even if he’s taking open looks, if he doesn’t improve his perimeter stroke, it will be interesting to see how he responds to his limitations.
Shooting may be Smith’s biggest weakness, but his comfort level on the perimeter leaves quite a bit to be desired in general. A capable passer, he shows nice court vision, but his lack of ball-handling ability hurts him at times, though his physical brand of slashing ranks him in the top-25 players in our database in terms of free throw attempts per-40. Struggling to change directions with the ball once he drives, Smith’s ability to refine the way he attacks off the bounce will cut down on his turnovers and allow him to better utilize his passing ability, since he has little trouble getting into the teeth of the defense with his first step. On the next level, Smith will need to be a low-mistake player unless he can overhaul his shooting, making his ball-handling ability and decision-making another point of interest this season.
A bit older than his peers, Smith’s biggest chore this season will be answering questions about his position at the next level. Functioning as a hybrid forward offensively, but lacking ideal tools to play as a four in the NBA, each game will be another chance for him to convince NBA decision-makers that he has legitimately become a three. Possessing the characteristics necessary to be a defensive specialist, he was considered a bubble first-rounder for periods of last year’s draft season. Considering his age, and the fact that he doesn’t have the highest ceiling in terms of talent, Smith could find himself in a similar position if he shows promise in the right areas. If he appears more natural out on the perimeter and improves his catch and shoot ability, he will certainly be a player that a lot of teams show interest in come next summer. With all of his weaknesses revolving around one aspect of his game, Smith will need to show growth despite there being very little change around him, a tall order, but an interesting situation to watch if nothing else.
Tyler Smith continues to be one of the most versatile prospects in the NCAA, a player who can carry multiple roles on both sides of the ball. Coming into this season, he was supposed to be the leader of a Tennessee team that was going to cruise through the SEC and establish himself as one of the premier players in the country. Flash forward to February: Smith has shown a lot of improvements in his transition to the wing, but Tennessee is unranked with a 14-8 record and Smith has gradually exposed his many strengths and weaknesses regarding his potential at the next level.
Physically, there is very little not to like about Smith. Standing a legitimate 6’7 with a nice frame and good wingspan, he has the ideal body type of an NBA small forward. His athleticism also projects nicely as he possesses good lateral quickness on the defensive end, speed in the open floor, and explosiveness around the basket. There are few collegiate combo-forwards who look the part better than Smith.
Offensively, however, he is less of a sure thing, not really diversifying his offensive game to a great degree from his sophomore to his junior season. Though his scoring rate has improved over his career, at this point he is most effective as a spot-up shooter and slasher. The problem, however, is that he is not particularly efficient from beyond the arc, where he shoots 27.6% on 2.6 attempts per game. Despite his bad percentages, his form looks salvageable, as he possesses a quick release and, for the most part, a fluid motion. He most needs to work on getting a consistent release point, as sometimes he will push the ball from his chest. Working on getting his legs more involved in his shooting motion might help him too, as he does not get much elevation in his shooting motion. Also, for somebody who neither shoots an outstanding percentage from deep nor displays the best shot selection, he sometimes will fall in love with his jump shot instead of going elsewhere in his offensive repertoire.
He is also effective as a slasher, utilizing a quick first step in addition to superb athleticism for his size; Smith is effective off of the dribble and scoring around the basket. He certainly has room to improve, however, most prominently cleaning up his handle in order to be quicker with the ball in his hands. With better ball handling abilities, Smith could easily translate his slashing ability to the next level, which would help show scouts that he has an NBA ready skill on the offensive end. It would also help him to establish a mid-range game, creating separation to get shots off inside of the three point line, which he simply does not show consistently at this point. Another aspect of his slashing game that could improve is his court vision off of the dribble. Despite the fact that he shows good court vision in general, off of the dribble and in the post, Smith has a tendency to power the ball to the basket, regardless of how many players stand in his way. His turnover rate continues to improve for the third straight season now, though, to a now solid .15 turnovers per possession.
Defensively, Smith is having somewhat of a down year, but still shows a lot of promise at the next level. For one, his size and athleticism, primarily his lateral quickness, should help him to immediately earn playing time at the next level. Smith should be able to multiple positions, even some power forwards at the next level, which is one of his best attributes right now. Though he has struggled somewhat this year on his rotations and with maintaining his focus, which has manifested itself primarily in his decreased rebound, steal, and block numbers per-40 minutes pace adjusted, inconsistency has been the norm for Tennessee this year, who have yet to gel defensively.
Thus, the book is still out on Tyler Smith. His ceiling is not considered to be as as it once was, as he projects to be a Trevor Ariza type at best and a Renaldo Balkman type at worst—a nice role player who brings energy off the bench. The trouble regarding Smith at this point is that he can do many things offensively, but none of them consistently or particularly well enough to consider him NBA ready in any particular area. The rest of this season will be considered a salvation project both for the Tennessee Volunteers and Smith, who has to prove that he can lead this team in multiple roles to more wins. He is a year older than most in his class and because of this, declaring for the draft is a strong possibility, but he has a long way to go before being considered a lock for success at the next level. Improving his jump shot and ball handling abilities seem to be the most significant areas of concern and, should he be able to improve his consistency in these areas, he could make a bigger splash than expected come June.
Tyler Smith followed up his stellar debut at Iowa with an even better season as a sophomore at Tennessee, after being granted a hardship transfer waiver due to his father’s health. He has continued to make great strides transitioning from the power forward to the small forward position, and proved to be one of the best passing small forwards in the collegiate ranks last season.
Quite impressive was the fact that Smith was able to match or surpass his production from his freshman season at Tennessee despite playing 8 minutes less per game. His field goal percentage jumped from 44% to nearly 54%, his rebounding rate increased dramatically, he blocked more shots, dished out nearly just as many assists, cut down on his turnovers, and shot the ball much better from beyond the arc. He ranks third in assists per 40 minutes amongst returning small forward prospects, and fourth amongst returning small forwards in assist to turnover ratio. Not only is this a testament to the nice court vision that he shows, but also tells you about his ever-improving decision making skills.
The main way that Smith puts points on the board would be through slashing to the rim and cutting towards the basket. Not an outstanding ball handler, he tends to put the ball down a couple of times with his head down in a straight line to get to the rim. When cut off, he finds ways to elude defenders through a series of spin moves or pulling up for a short jumper. His quickness and all-around activity level gets him to the free throw line at a solid rate, where he shoots an improvable 71% from the stripe.
Defense is one area of the court where Smith stands out, having completely bought into Bruce Pearl’s philosophy of intense ball pressure. He moves well laterally, possesses nice length, and has shown good maturity and activity on this end of the floor. Smith picked up his rebounding during his sophomore year, and proved to be one of the team’s better rotating defenders. Able to guard both forward positions, the versatility that Tyler presents on this end of the floor makes him very appealing as an NBA prospect.
The primary weakness in Smith’s game continues to center around his outside shot. Although he has made some serious improvement from his freshman to sophomore year, he still remains an inconsistent threat from beyond the arc and could really clean up the mechanics of his shot. Despite shooting nearly 38% from beyond the arc, Smith only attempted one attempt from that range beyond there per game, which tells you about the amount of confidence he has in that part of his game. To be able to play the small forward position full-time in the NBA, scouts would like to be able to see him expanding his range out to the NBA line eventually, and be a consistent threat to make open shots with his feet set. The former Tennessee prep star still tends to drive left the majority of the time, going towards his off hand over 65% of the time he takes the ball to the basket. Despite cutting down on his turnover rate recently, he can still get even better in this area.
Age is a bit of a concern for Smith, who was originally a class of 2005 high school prospect. He is 22 years old at the moment, having being forced to spend a year at the prep school ranks after not qualifying out of high school. On the bright side, Smith is far from a finished product and still has two years to hone his perimeter skills.
As a junior, testing the waters will certainly be an option for Smith at the conclusion of this season. He would surely be a player who would receive an invite to the Orlando Pre-Draft Camp, and will definitely make a case for himself to be considered a first round pick if he continues to fill out some of the holes in his game.
Tyler Smith has taken very little time to fit in with his new team, quickly getting into stride and putting up very similar production at Tennessee as compared with what he did last year at Iowa State. What’s impressive, though, is that he’s duplicating that production in eight less minutes per game, and with quite a bit more efficiency.
The 6’7 college combo-forward that projects as more of a swingman in the NBA has had quite a few stat sheet stuffing games so far this season, highlighted by a 22 point, 7 rebound, 8 assist outbreak against Louisiana Lafayette in just 25 minutes of playing time. Smith’s versatility has been on full display, as he’s been doing anything and everything the Volunteers need him to do, showing flashes of virtually every skill you can look for in a player. He’s defended the post, defended the perimeter, rebounded, created offense for teammates, hit mid-range floaters, scored in the post, taken defenders off the dribble, gotten out in transition, and hit shots from behind the arc. And while he’s flashing all kinds of skills left and right, he’s not making many mistakes in the process, shooting an extremely efficient 58% from the field (up from 44%), averaging 1.7 points per shot (up from 1.2), and averaging just 1.6 turnovers (down from 3.0). As Smith gets even more comfortable with his new team, and if he can get his minutes per game up from 25 per game to the 30-35 range, he’ll probably post at least one triple double by season’s end.
Coming into the season, Smith’s biggest weakness was his outside shot, and despite some good indications early on, that still probably remains true. He’s hit four of his first 10 attempts from behind the arc, and his mechanics look a little cleaned up, but he still has a tendency flail his arms to the side on his release. A consistent outside shot is the most notable thing lacking from Smith’s offensive repertoire, and adding that would certainly improve his stock as a wing prospect.
One area Smith has looked extremely impressive with in the early going is his passing game, which is outstanding for a small forward prospect. He shows excellent court vision and has good passing skills from all areas of the court. He’s made crisp cross-court passes from the post, alley-oop lobs from behind the three-point arc, no-look dishes in transition, and feeds to the post. On one specific play in the game against UL-Lafayette, Smith, a righty, calmly was dribbling the ball at the top of the three-point arc, and he effortlessly made a strong, quick, perfectly placed, left-handed bounce pass under his defender’s arm to a cutter in the lane.
Smith uses his athleticism well in all facets of the game, especially attacking the boards. He does a good job heading towards the basket and using his length to pull down rebounds over the opposition. Smith’s athleticism is also on display in transition, where he runs the floor and finishes with some explosive dunks.
On the defensive end, Smith is very active and shows very good anticipation in the passing lanes, where he also uses his length and good hands to pick off a lot of balls. He’s forced to defend the post on occasion, where he has some obvious problems with larger players, but he’s active moving from fronting to playing his man straight up, using his length to cut off passing lanes. One especially impressive thing about Smith’s defense is how he always plays both his man and the ball, staying very aware of both and being sure to stay in between them, playing good prevent defense.
Smith has seemed to take his game to the next level this season, which will definitely be more evident if he’s given more minutes in Tennessee’s rotation as the season goes on. He has a great foundation of skills and has excellent energy on the floor, so there’s no reason to think he won’t continue to improve those skills in time. He could come out this year and be considered a potential first round prospect, but there’s a very good chance he could make significant strides with his game if he spent another year in college, which would possibly put him in the mix to end up as a lottery candidate. There’s even a chance that could happen this year if he continues to improve his game and gets more minutes to showcase his skills.
A sophomore in his rookie season in the SEC, Tyler Smith took a pretty interesting route to eventually land at Tennessee. He initially committed to the Vols back in 2005 when Buzz Peterson was head coach, but began to waver on his decision once Peterson was fired and replaced by Wisconsin-Milwaukee coach Bruce Pearl. Tennessee took a hard stance and decided not to let Smith out of his letter of intent, which forced him to spend a year in prep school at Hargrave Military Academy before eventually signing on to play at Iowa. Smith did not qualify academically regardless before attending prep school, making the LOI a moot point, but there certainly seemed to be some bad blood between the two parties according to the initial reports.
Tennessee ended up investigating evidence of improper benefits provided to Smith’s family (in the form of game tickets and rent money) during his initial recruitment by a Tennessee booster (under Peterson’s regime), but those allegations were never proven to be true. Smith went onto have a phenomenal freshman season at Iowa—averaging 15 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game, but his coach Steve Alford left the school this summer to take the job opening at New Mexico. In the meantime, the health of Smith’s father, Billy Smith, deteriorated due to lung cancer, and Tyler decided to transfer back to Tennessee in order to be closer to him. Unfortunately, his father ended up passing away a few weeks ago, but not before the NCAA granted his son a hardship exemption to play for the Vols this season without sitting out a year.
With a heavy heart, Smith now walks into what appears to be a fantastic situation—a starting role in an up-tempo system that suits his strengths perfectly, playing for a program that should be considered a strong candidate to make the Final Four this year. If scouts didn’t pay attention to him last season playing for a team that finished just 17-14, they are sure to take notice this year. While he doesn’t quite fit the mold of your prototypical NBA small forward prospect, he definitely has quite a few things going for him.
A bouncy 6-7, Smith has a good frame to compliment his very nice athletic ability. He’s quick off his feet with a good first step, but is able to power his way around the court at the college level due to his excellent strength. Despite seeing large minutes at the power forward position last year, Smith prefers to play primarily facing the basket, where he can use his athleticism to put the ball on the floor mostly using his left hand. He’s very aggressive looking to create his own shot, overly so at times, and clearly has a scorer’s mentality in the way he approaches the game. He has good body control and shows sparks of a promising mid-range game—either spotting up or pulling up off the dribble—being able to create separation sharply from his defender and showing excellent scoring instincts throwing the ball in the hoop from difficult situations. Smith can do some work in the post as well—even though he probably doesn’t take advantage enough of his abilities here—showing some decent footwork, a nice turn-around jumper, and the ability to just power the ball into the hoop using his superior physical attributes and aggressive mentality. He’s a scorer in the mold of Carmelo Anthony, but obviously nowhere near as talented.
From what we can tell, Smith’s biggest weakness as far as being a high-level NBA prospect is concerned revolves around his perimeter shooting ability. He has inconsistent shooting mechanics, releasing the ball from a different vantage point on every shot attempt, and poor footwork as well. This didn’t stop him from attempting over two 3-pointers per game last year, though, of which he converted only 25%.
Another part of his game that he must work on is his right hand. According to Synergy Sports Technology’s quantified stats, Smith goes left on his half-court drives 70.53% of the time, something that is clearly also noticeable on tape. When he does go right—defenses did catch on to this and dared him to do so—he becomes a lot more turnover prone, as the ball slows him down and he looks out of control. To reach his full potential as a shot-creator, he must become a more versatile ball-handler.
Two things that make up for his shortcomings are his passing and defense, both of which are above average. Smith seems like a great fit for Bruce Pearl’s offense and the mismatches it creates because of how quickly he reacts to things on the court—the 3.6 assists per game he averaged last year weren’t a fluke. He puts a pretty solid effort in on the end of the floor too, being aided by his strength, length and lateral quickness. This leaves a lot of room for optimism regarding him making the full transition to the wing eventually. We would like to see him become a better rebounder, though, picking up just 4.9 per game last year playing heavy minutes at the 4-spot.
All in all, Smith has his work cut out for him if he’s to develop into a legit NBA small forward prospect over the next year or two. As a 21-year old sophomore, scouts will be eager to see improvement from him in his perimeter shooting and off-hand especially, showing that he still has upside, but he’ll be in a great situation to showcase himself.
The biggest problem that Tyler is going to face is that he is a 6'7 (looked closer to 6'6 to me) PF. He has a great build and looks like he is 25 years old, but must transform his game to that of a small forward if he wants to have any shot of making it on the next level. Smith is very athletic and crafty inside, but his ball handling skills need a ton of work. We'll see if he is able to make the transformation next year at Tennessee.[Read Full Article]