Is Marcus Smart the right fit for the Sacramento Kings?
“There’s a lot to like about Marcus Smart.”
That’s the opinion of Sacramento Kings assistant general manager Mike Bratz. The 20-year-old out of Oklahoma State looks and plays more like a linebacker than than an NBA point guard. He’s a barrell of a man that will present mismatches for his position at the next level. For the Kings, the question is how would he fit?
“There’s some very talented (guys),” Smart said last week of the Kings’ roster. “They come out here and make the game more fun to play. They compete every day. They’re not boring to play with. I can see myself fitting very well with those guys.”
He may be 20, but Smart doesn’t look his age. He’s a point guard built like a mack truck, standing at 6’3 and weighing in at 227 lbs. There aren’t many point guards constructed like Smart in the NBA these days. In fact, Bratz and Chris Mullin, Kings advisor to the chairman, had to go all the way back to the 1970s for a comparison, likening Smart to “Super” John Williamson, one of the All-Time leading scorers in Brooklyn Nets franchise history.
“There’s not a whole lot of guards that come out as a sophomore in college that have his build,” Bratz said of Smart. “He didn’t play football in high school. But, if this guy would’ve played football, he’d be a monster with his athleticism, strength and speed. I mean, he’s a great basketball player, too. But you don’t see many kids like him come out.”
The Oklahoma State point guard uses his physical tools to his advantage on boths sides of the court. According to Draft Express, he averaged nearly 10 free throw attempts per 40 minutes and finished 57 percent of shots around the basket in half court settings. He’s also a willing and capable defender, which allowed him to guard positions one through four at the college level.
The Kings could certainly use a player in their backcourt with defensive upside like Smart. The struggles of the Kings’ perimeter defense beginning with Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore were well chronicled last year. To have someone that can bully opposing offenses with his strength and length on the perimeter would certainly be a godsend for Kings coach Michael Malone. Finding guards who can contain penetration would lessen their need for a shot-blocking big man to clean up their mistakes.
Offensively, however, Smart may not be the right fit. The 20-year-old guard has an attack-the-rim skillset that’s comparable former Kings guard Tyreke Evans. Like Smart, the 2010 Rookie of the Year intimidated opponents with his size and strength as a member of the Kings. However, his decision-making and isolation-centered tendencies proved to be the wrong long-term fit next to DeMarcus Cousins and the Kings let him walk in free agency last summer.
If they keep their pick, is Smart a realistic option? If he’s the best player available at No. 8, sure. But, there may be other players with more upside, talent and fit better with the Kings than Smart when they are officially on the clock.
Marcus Smart: Football player?
As Mike Bratz said, the 20-year-old point guard has the build of a football player. Could Smart have played in college or in the NFL? Maybe, but the future NBA guard just didn’t have any heart for the gridiron?
“I played football before,” Smart said. “But just wasn’t my first love. Basketball’s always been my love.”
Smart was a wide receiver and strong safety when he played football as a kid. When he got to high school, he chose to stick with basketball. Growing up in a state as crazy for football as Texas, it wasn’t an easy task to tell recruiters that the basketball court was where he wanted to be.
“It’s kind of a lot of just telling people you’ll get back to them,” Smart said with smile when asked how he avoided the peer pressure in Texas to play football instead of basketball.