Russ Smith has one year of eligibility left. His bio claims he’s 6-foot and 165-pounds. My guess is he’ll measure closer to 5-foot-10 or 5-11 at the NBA combine. He’s not a point guard, either; he’s a shooter (or gunner or chucker, whichever you prefer). To me, Smith feels like a very good college basketball player. Is he going to translate to shooting guard in the NBA? How many shooting guards in the NBA are under 6-feet?
The fact that Smith’s dad doesn’t want to hear about feedback is troubling. What if the NBA tells Smith he’s a 2nd round pick? Does he return to school?
Most people will forget that Smith was averaging 25 ppg in the NCAA tourney before his disastrous title game: 3-for-16 shooting, nine points, three turnovers, four fouls, benched to start the 2nd half, and awful shot selection down the stretch that actually helped Michigan hang around a bit. Scoring isn’t the problem for Smith – playing under control and within the confines of the offense are his glaring weaknesses. (I’d add his tendency toward Hero Ball is also an issue, but that Notre Dame game was a 5-overtime affair.)
Smith shot 41 percent from the field this year (best of his career). The Cardinals return a lot of talent – I had them 3rd in my far-too-early 2013-2014 Top 25 (they were 2nd yesterday until the Smith departure) – and if he stayed in school for one more year, the Cardinals would certainly have a chance to repeat as champs. He’s got a legitimate shot to be part of a team that made three straight Final Fours.
I am usually an advocate of players leaving early to get paid in the NBA – like Mitch McGary, among others – but in Smith’s case, staying for another year could actually help him refine his game – perhaps work on his point guard skills the way Stephen Curry did at Davidson and attempt to make the transformation to scoring point guard in the pros.