With the 15th overall pick of the 2023 SBNation NBA Mock Draft, the Atlanta Hawks select Nick Smith Jr. from Arkansas.
Smith arrived on the campus of Arkansas as the No. 1 high school recruit in the country. Unfortunately for him, his freshman year in Fayetteville did not quite live up to the hype. In December, a decision was made to sideline Smith indefinitely due to “right knee management,” and even after working his way back, Smith never looked like the dominant on ball guard he was expected to be at the college level. Across 26 games, he averaged 12.5 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.6 rebounds on a bleak 47.2% true shooting percentage (TS%).
Nick Smith Jr. is an explosive 6-foot-5 guard with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, and he brings with him a variety of hesitation and deft crossover moves to the draft. It’s quickly easy to see his ability to get into his bag, attack backpedaling defenders, and light it up from all over the court. He also has some utility as a catch-and-shoot guy around the arc, and I expect that part of his game to grow in the professional game.
Very much a willing shooter from deep, Smith shot 34% from deep on 4.2 attempts per game in his short Arkansas career. On the other hand, he posted a shooting mark south of 40% from two-point land largely stemming from his aversion to getting to the rim. Additionally, he logged a shockingly poor assist total despite being on the ball a ton.
Nick Smith Jr had plenty of encouraging sequences vs Florida despite 4-12 stat line. Handles with a bounce to step, hesitations that get defenders leaning back. OTD footwork to create separation. Great finishing/touch off 1 foot. Plays with energy. Engaged on D. Missed makable Js pic.twitter.com/RKuXAmYLEy— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) February 20, 2023
His defense seemed to be trending upward over the season, and he generally gave full effort on the defensive end in college — even though his fundamentals on that end aren’t the most sound. Smith has a slender 185-pound frame and can get pushed around by bigger creators, but he can size up to most perimeter positions and do a decent job in space. With some refining, he can be a real positive contributor on that end.
Can he fit into a dynamic NBA offense? Will his elite tools translate into consistency at the next level? Certainly, there are questions flying around about how his game translates to the NBA. In my mind, Smith is a ‘high ceiling, low floor’ prospect due to his stellar high school pedigree but disappointing collegiate campaign. But at just 19 years old, there is plenty of time for him to figure things out under the tutelage of a NBA development, strength and conditioning regimen.
Drafting at 15th in the draft, this pick was all about an upside play. If Smith can get back to being a freakish creator off the bounce, he can provide the Hawks with some extra juice off the bench in the short term and possible even crack a starting rotation in the long term. But patience will be key, and the Hawks will need to continue to reshape the roster in free agency and in the days ahead.
SBNation Mock Draft So Far:
- San Antonio Spurs - Victor Wembanyama
- Charlotte Hornets - Scoot Henderson
- Portland Trail Blazers - Brandon Miller
- Houston Rockets - Amen Thompson
- Detroit Pistons - Ausar Thompson
- Orlando Magic - Cam Whitmore
- Indiana Pacers - Jarace Walker
- Washington Wizards - Bilal Coulibaly
- Utah Jazz - Anthony Black
- Dallas Mavericks - Taylor Hendricks
- Orlando Magic (via Chicago) - Gradey Dick
- Oklahoma City Thunder - Cason Wallace
- Toronto Raptors - Kobe Bufkin
- New Orleans Pelicans - Jalen Hood-Schifino
- Atlanta Hawks - Nick Smith Jr.