Talk about some firepower in this three seed versus six seed matchup. Marcus Smart and Zach LaVine square-off in a battle of athletically gifted combo guards who would both fit nicely here in Charlotte.
As always, I'm joined in each conversation by James Plowright of TheLotteryMafia.com. Enjoy!
Evan: In today's matchup, we have Marcus Smart vs. Zach LaVine. First, lets talk about Smart.
How would he fit in here with Charlotte?
James: When Rod Higgins recently had an interview with Matt Rochinski of Hornets.com, he spoke about having Kemba and Al penciled-in as starters. In other words, the front office has decided that Kemba Walker will be the team's point guard for at least a few more years. So, if Charlotte was to select Smart, expect him to come in as a combo guard.
Smart's immediate draw right now would be his defensive intensity he would bring the team. Think of him having a similar role to Patrick Beverley in Houston. Smart wouldn't help with Charlotte's spacing -- he shot only 30 percent from three this year at Oklahoma State -- although some GMs believe it wasn't a problem with his shot.
One GM told Chad Ford: "I don't think Marcus is a bad shooter. I think his form looks pretty good and you see it will go in when he's squared and taking good shots. I think the issue is that Marcus took a lot of bad shots. He was trying to do too much at Oklahoma State. If he can trust his teammates in the NBA and be a leader, I think he'll be just fine as a shooter. Shot selection is the key for him."
So, overall, I see Smart being a fantastic addition to the Charlotte backcourt. It would fill a position of need, and he would seem to fit into Steve Clifford's defensive philosophy -- although he will have to work on limiting his turnovers (3.4 per game).
Evan: So, what does this mean for Gerald Henderson? Think we then shop him, if he doesn't want to come off the bench?
James: I have always thought Henderson would be a great 6th/7th man on a good team, but the question is will he want to embrace that role?
I don't think it spells the end of Henderson in Charlotte. The unknown is if Smart will successfully be a combo guard. It may end up that he can only play as Kemba's backup. A little bit like I said in one of the previous articles, I think you take Smart and Henderson into training camp and see how it plays out. If after half a season Clifford/Cho don't feel like they compliment each other, then you can make a move. I just think its risky to trade away a proven veteran for what a rookie who you think "might" become something. Why not just wait and see how it plays out?
Evan: That's likely what they'll do, but if they take a guard -- one like Smart's caliber -- then I think the question has to be brought up.
Both Walker and Smart are ball-dominant, meaning you likely won't see a possession go by without either touching the ball or getting up a shot. Do you see Walker and Smart being able to coexist from that standpoint? I love the fit between these two, but I wonder who takes the backseat on the offensive side of it.
James: It will be brought up, but fans love jumping to conclusions and assuming just because option A happened, option B must happen immediately. A lot of the time, teams want to give players time to adjust and adapt to the situation they find themselves in.
I would make the argument that both Smart and Walker have had to be ball-dominant for their teams to be successful.
When I interviewed Shelvin Mack of the Atlanta Hawks this year, he spoke about how the draft process is very frustrating as players sacrifice themselves for their teams in college, but then get criticized for their play by scouts and GMs later.
For entire games? No, but I think that they can form an effective partnership for stages of the game. I think Smart would take the back seat as the younger player, he could find a role as an stand out perimeter defender (similar to Beverley).
Evan: From an analytics-related point of view, Smart seems to be a favorite of a lot of teams. His PER, for a point guard who took a lot of bad shots at times, of 26.9 is really good. Also, even with his mid-season suspension, his win shares were one of the highest in the entire draft class at 5.6 -- and add in a defensive rating 92.3, which grades out as one of the best for the 2014 guard class.
Also, according to FiveThirtyEight's APSM model, Marcus Smart graded out as the second best prospect behind UCLA's Jordan Adams (yeah, I'm surprised by that, too) with a score of 1.6. Thoughts on those?
James: Smart does a lot of things that other point guards don't. He can really fill the stat sheet up, so it is by no means a surprise he ranks highly on analytics models. (One of our writers for our site runs a draft stats site which you may find interesting.
However, I am always careful to combine all these stats and analytical models with my own eyes, Ed Davis was an analytical darling, as was Brandon Wright and both of those guys are role players at best in the NBA.
Due to a sudden change of schedule on my part, we had to cut our Zach LaVine talk down to James' scouting report on him. - Evan
James: Before I get into Zach LaVine, I should point out that I know I am in the minority in my opinion. I just simply don't believe he should be a top-20 pick. I am glad to say long time scout Ed Isaacson at NBAdraftblog.com agrees with me on this particular topic.
First of all, we should put an end to the notion that LaVine is a point guard. I don't see anything about his game that says "point." I don't for one second blame his coach or the system at UCLA for that. He's not a strong ballhandler or creator in the half court. Also, LaVine is not a distributor and his decision-making is poor -- probably the three most important traits of a good point guard.
I also feel LaVine turned his back on the UCLA program. He left after finding out that Bryce Alford may be in the lead to get the starting point guard role next year. I am not a fan of a player who leaves college because he doesn't get his own way. He completely shied away from the challenge knowing full well he is nowhere ready for the NBA.
The Russell Westbrook comparison is one that is thrown around way too often for LaVine, but when you look closely you can notice that Westbrook is a very good ball handler and distributor. His decision making, I agree, is not one of his strong suits.
He's a freakish athlete and that really shines through in transition when its one-on-none. However, all that athleticism doesn't really matter if he doesn't know how to use it in real game situations. LaVine is a weak finisher in the paint (not strong, avoids contact, has no left hand), none of which is helped by his ballhandling. His court vision and overall craftiness aren't good enough to be a shot creator in the half court -- for himself or his teammates. In 37 games he made 17 shots around the rim in the half court. Yikes.
His jumper is a bit odd. Even though he's right-handed, the shot comes from the left side of his body, and he leans back and kicks his feet out a bit. However, it's a fairly compact motion with a consistent and high release and a good follow-through; not to mention he lets it go way high in the air in similar fashion to Gerald Green. If he is consistent and effective with this motion, I think he'll be fine. The problem is, his severe struggles in the final month of the season give me pause, and as a freshman, we have a very limited sample size with which to examine.
Does LaVine deserve to get a pass just because he is a year younger than most prospects? Do we just expect the NBA coaching staff to fill in the holes in his game? I for one wouldn't risk it in a deep draft such as this. There is simply too much other talent which looks to be able to contribute with much less "bust" factor. Remember Anthony Randolph? He was physical freak who had a worryingly low basketball IQ. I personally see LaVine being at risk falling into that category.
I know Charlotte fans especially seem to have a hard time accepting my "glass half empty" approach to LaVine as a prospect, but I guess I am like the evil red devil on the other shoulder of Rich Cho? Okay, maybe I don't have that sort of influence, but maybe we should for once. Do the boring thing and stick with a prospect who doesn't have the same amount of risk.
So with regards to his fit in Charlotte? I honestly don't think you could even play LaVine meaningful minutes on a good team for another season or two, what would the roster look like then? I have no idea.