Prospect Profile: Dennis Smith Jr

Leading up to the 2017 NBA Draft, we will be diving into what our Draft Models tell us about this year’s top prospects. Our NBA Draft Models include the PNSP Model, NBA Role Probability Model, and Similarity Scores which each provide unique ways of evaluating college prospects. Our Prospect Profiles look at which stats positively/negatively affect NBA projections, unique data points from a player’s stats, and relevant comparisons to current NBA players. You can find links to all of our Prospect Profiles in the header menu above (NBA –> NBA Draft –> Prospect Profiles). In this article, we break down the NBA prospects of Dennis Smith Jr.

Dennis Smith Jr | PG | NC State | Freshman

Draft Express #9 | Model 284 PNSP #5
Physical Measurements: 6’1.5″ | 175lbs | Wingspan: 6’3″
Top Player Comps: Will Blalock, Trey Burke, Aaron Holiday

Age PTS/40 TRB/40 AST/40 STL/40 BLK/40
19.6 20.8 5.8 7.1 2.2 0.5
Model 284
Ratings
PNSP All-Star % Starter % Bench % Non-NBA %
89.4  37.2%  26.4%  9.9%  26.6%

Dennis Smith Jr was one of the top high school recruits in the country before missing his senior season to a torn ACL. Smith bounced back extremely well from that injury in his Freshman year at NC State, running away with the ACC Freshman of the Year award, and beating out fellow top draft prospects Jayson Tatum and Jonathan Isaac in doing so. Unfortunately, this came amidst a wild season at NC State in which head coach Mark Gottfried was fired mid-season and the Wolfpack went a disappointing 4-14 in the ACC, missing the NCAA tournament by a mile.

Smith is being lumped in the 3-10 range of most mock drafts, with cases being made for him on the high and low end of that range. Let’s take a look at what our Draft Models tell us about DSJ’s NBA potential.

Complete Game

With a sky-high PNSP score of 89.4 (5th in the 2017 draft class), it should not come as a surprise that Smith filled up the stat sheet in his lone NCAA season. By our models, Smith projects as average or better for a guard in every box score statistic, highlighted by high marks in free throws made, assists, and points scored, which point to his potential as a playmaker. Dennis also projects slightly above average for a guard in terms of 3-point shooting. Since 2009-10, here is a list of the freshman from power conferences that finished a season with at least 17 PPG, 25% assist percentage, 2.5% steal percentage, and 1.0% block percentage:

Player PPG AST% STL% BLK%
D’Angelo Russell 19.3 30.1% 2.8% 1.1%
Ben Simmons 19.2 27.4% 3.1% 2.5%
Dennis Smith Jr 18.1 34.2% 3.1% 1.2%
Kyrie Irving 17.5 29.8% 3.0% 1.8%

That is not bad company for Mr. Smith. Another sign of his upside, DSJ holds the 5th highest All-Star probability in the 2017 draft class at 34.7%. Furthermore, he is still under 20 years old and lost some development time to his knee injury, meaning there could be more growth in store for his game.

Downside

It is not all positives when it comes to Smith’s NBA projections. His non-NBA probability of 26.6% is the highest among the current DraftExpress top-10, with the next closest being Lauri Markkanen at only 16.6% – meaning Smith really is in his own tier among top prospects when it comes to bust potential. This low projection is driven by a combination of Smith’s lower defensive rebound percentage, block percentage, free throw percentage, shorter wingspan (6’3″) and recruiting ranking (post-injury). While it is likely just a coincidence, it is curious that DSJ’s high non-NBA probability does seem to fall in line with some of the off-court issues that have been attached to him…

Smith’s top player comps do not provide much optimism at all. Other than Derrick Rose (who ranks 10th) and Aaron Holiday (who is in this year’s class), the other 8 players either fizzled out of the NBA or were never able to carve out more than a bench role:

Conclusion

Dennis Smith Jr has both higher upside and higher downside than nearly all top prospects in this year’s draft. Our models indicate he has the ability to become an elite NBA point guard, contributing in all areas, while he also has the ability to fall out of the league completely. It does seem meaningful that the models are this high on Smith despite the turmoil he played with at NC State as well as the fact that he was coming off a serious injury. If I am drafting for a franchise PG at the top of the draft, I would feel good about a bet on Dennis Smith Jr.

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