Former LSU standout Ja’Vonte Smart has found his new home after an incredible career in Death Valley. The Baton Rouge native inked a deal with the Miami Heat after Thursday evening’s NBA Draft to begin his professional career.
After phenomenal showings in his private workouts leading up to the draft, Smart became a household name for NBA front offices, boosting his stock significantly.
In his workout with the Toronto Raptors, Smart set a Raptors record for makes in a full-court “star drill” with 52, showing that his potential as a 3-and-D standout in the NBA could be realized if the coaching staff develops him appropriately.
“When I saw the first few go in, I kind of caught fire a little bit,” Smart told USA Today’s Cody Taylor. “But the ones I missed went in and out and I just stayed the course. I just tried to stay the course and keep being consistent with those things.”
At 6-foot-4 and slightly over 200 pounds, Smart has the ideal size to fit in today’s NBA with his tremendous physicality and explosive playstyle. An ideal 3-and-D player, Smart shot at an efficient clip for the Tigers last season at 40% from beyond the arc.
His fit with Miami likely will come as a scoring punch as he continues to work on his playmaking. He's also a versatile enough defender with good instincts, which are all traits that NBA teams value, though the start of his career will likely be in the G-League.
The growth Smart has made from the end of the Tigers’ season to now is due to the relentless work he has put in to reach this point, namely with former NBA sniper Mike Miller.
“Mike has been good to me. It has been pretty great working out with him,” Smart told USA Today. “It’s good to work out with somebody that has been around the league for a long time. He knows the game and he knows basketball. I think being in the gym with him has helped my shot a lot.”
Now reaching the next level, Smart is prepared to lock in and put in countless hours in the gym to prove to those that passed on him that they made a dreadful decision. Watching film and studying his favorite players has unlocked pieces to Smart’s game he didn’t even know were possible, helping him reach this milestone.
“When I was growing up, I always watched Allen Iverson. Then I started liking John Wall,” Smart said in a recent interview. “But mainly Allen Iverson when I was younger. I used to love his crossover. I think his shiftiness is one of a kind. Nowadays, I watch James Harden and Kevin Durant. I try to take things from different guys like Jrue Holiday and things like that.”
Smart is fully prepared to come in and compete for Miami, his new home, as he fulfills his lifelong dream of playing in the NBA. With an unmatched work ethic and confident demeanor, this is just the beginning for what’s to come for the former LSU star.