It's always easy to get caught up in the hype of the incoming freshmen class in college basketball, and that's especially the case with this year's once-in-a-lifetime crop of talent. You'd be crazy to not have the case of the "oohs" and "ahhs" over Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker, Julius Randle, and Dante Exum-- the superstar potential screams out at you as every game passes, and the excitement directed towards this year's draft continues to build exponentially. Lost in the hysteria of the first-year player delight is an old man in college basketball standards-- sophomore point guard Marcus Smart out of Oklahoma State University.
It's easy to forget that Smart was Orlando's favorite prospect leading up to last year's Draft-- his decision to stay in school for another year came much to the chagrin of Orlando's front office, who allegedly had their hearts set on taking the then-freshman sensation. You have to love a player like Marcus Smart. He works hard. He plays lockdown defense. He's a leader. He has "potential." And best of all, he fits the bill of being a contributor to Rob Hennigan's revered championship culture in the locker room.
The main knock on the Texas native coming into this year and all of last year was his mediocre shooting-- a 40.4 percent mark from the field and 29 percent clip from beyond the arc surely didn't help his case for being a surefire one-and-done. The point guard position has inherently become an offense-first gig in today's NBA, and Smart gave us no reason to believe that he would be able to effectively run an offense at the next level as a result of not being able to do so in the Big 12. Five games into his 2013-14 campaign, Smart is looking like a much improved player on the offensive end of the floor.
Although the stats are somewhat skewed by a small sample size and absolutely insane performance against Memphis, Smart is beginning to show us a glimpse of his promise on the scoring front. There's no doubt that the combo guard has been given the green light to take a heavy dosage of shots this season, as he's seen a lot of off-ball action that has led to an increase specifically drawn-up plays for the sophomore. While the college basketball season is still young, it's difficult to not think about how lethal a Smart-Oladipo pairing in the backcourt could potentially be for the Magic. While I'm not necessarily saying that Marcus Smart should be number one on Orlando's big board this year, he could turn out to be an excellent consolation prize if the team can't secure one of the top few picks in the Draft Lottery in May.
Also, if you have any reservations about the Magic possibly selecting Smart, I cordially invite you to watch this video: