Admittedly, I've never actually seen Jason Smith play. In fact, I really hadn't heard of him as a top-flight NBA Prospect until a couple months ago. So why is he suddenly now a potential lottery pick?
The answer? He's been good in workouts. He tested well at the predraft combine, showing remarkably more athleticism than people expected. He's very offensively skilled for a developing big men, and lord knows skilled big guys are coveted by scouts.
But as you all know, I'm 200 times more interested in his production than his workouts. So how exactly did he stack up?
There's no doubting Smith's offensive game. He's always been able to score, but he became much more skilled this year. His true shooting percentage rose to a ridiculous 65 percent this year, and his effective field goal percentage was a similarly robust 58 percent. One particular area of offensive growth for Smith was his ability to get to the free throw line, as his free throws per shot attempt was 0.66, over .15 higher than in previous years. The only reason his points average didn't rise too much was because, like Nick Young, Smith controlled the ball less frequently than before.
More significant, however, was Smith's growth on the glass. In his freshman and sophomore year, Smith averaged a mediocre 5.8 and 7.3 rebounds per game, respectively. This season, however, that number rose to 10.1, and to 13.4 per 40 minutes. The rise in scoring efficiency and rebounding contributed to Smith's career-high 28.1 PER and 14.4 win shares.
Defensively, Smith isn't quite as bad as it would seem. He did block 2.1 and 1.6 shots per game the last couple years, and his improvement in rebounding also helped. But scouts mostly seem to think that he won't be a very good defensive center in the pros, because of his lack of bulk.
I'm not all that concerned with his lack of bulk, but I wonder why Smith wasn't even better in college. Those numbers are certainly very good, but he hardly dominated in a so-so league (Mountain West). Look at how he compares to think blind prospect (answer revealed below).
Who is player 2, you ask?
And before you go out and claim that Fazekas did it against a bad schedule, know that Nevada's strength of schedule was ranked higher than Colorado State's. Fazekas isn't even a year older than Smith, and yet, he completely obliterated him in every category. Yet Fazekas is a second-round pick, and Smith might be in the lottery, despite the fact that the knock on both of them is that they're soft, weak, white big men.
It's true that Smith has gone out there and proven himself in workouts, and that has to count for something. But Smith, despite being very good in college, was never truly dominant, and the Wizards already have too many guys like him anyway. Why draft Smith after you already drafted Pecherov last offseason. They seem to be similar players, even though Smith does possess a better back-to-the-basket game.
If you ask me, I doubt Smith will be around by pick 16. Someone's going to reach on his potential and strike out miserably. If he is avaiable, however, I really hope the Wizards look elsewhere.