NBA Big Board 6.0
It's that time of year again, when underclassmen start overestimating their value and enter the NBA draft.
In the last week and a half, Pittsburgh freshman Steven Adams, NC State junior C.J. Leslie, Memphis sophomore Adonis Thomas and Missouri junior Phil Pressey all declared for the draft, with none indicating they were leaving the door open to return to college. There are certainly extenuating circumstances -- Adams, for example, said he was headed to the NBA out of a need to provide for his large family -- but not one of the aforementioned players is a lock for the first round, the only area in which players are guaranteed money.
Then there is Russ Smith, the Louisville junior who was reportedly headed to the draft but now, according to Cardinals coach Rick Pitino, is "50-50."
If Smith is getting positive feedback from NBA teams, it isn't coming from any of the executives I have talked to. He's listed at 6 feet, though he is probably closer to 5-10, and 165 pounds, though that's likely closer to 155. He's not a playmaker (2.9 assists per game) and shot just 32.8 percent from three-point range last season. A sample of the projections offered for Smith this week:
"He's a second-round guy, a third-string push guard," a Western Conference personnel executive said.
"Honestly, I don't know if he gets drafted in the second round," an Eastern Conference assistant general manager said.
And from an Eastern Conference personnel scout: "He would go undrafted. Guaranteed."
If Smith isn't getting a first-round promise -- and it would be shocking if a team would -- then why go? Perhaps Smith can earn a spot on the end of a team's bench; the new CBA has created more opportunities for cheap talent. But it's just as likely he will be playing overseas next season. By staying another season at Louisville, Smith could focus on making his game more NBA compatible. He could work on his playmaking and establishing himself as more of a point guard. Louisville will welcome coveted junior-college point guard Chris Jones next season, but Smith could still impress scouts by showing he is more than a one-dimensional scorer.