About 3 1/2 months ago, there was talk of NC State's Dennis Smith, Jr. standing tall as a top-five pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Regarded as a special prospect in this point guard-heavy draft, Smith Jr.'s stock has wavered as that of others has risen.
The fact of the matter is this: there are so many talented floor generals in this draft that quality players are simply bound to slip through the cracks a little bit. This means the Knicks will likely be able to come away with the player they need, despite having fallen to eighth overall.
Smith averaged an impressive 6.2 assists during his freshman year and was often able to find his teammates in transition. His speed allows him to attack the defense and penetrate, all while giving his teammates enough time to spread the floor and expose the defense as Smith finds them for high-percentage looks. Unfortunately, sometimes such explosiveness can lead to overzealous play.
Still young and clearly developing, Smith has difficulty slowing things down and letting the game come to him. Point guards are expected to lead the way and help control the tempo, but Smith doesn't exactly have that type of foresight in his game yet. He only has one general speed, and while that may catch opposing defenses off guard, that also tends to lead to turnovers. If New York rolls the dice on him, there's certain to be quite the transition.
If such an overall skill set sounds familiar, that's because it's eerily similar to the way Derrick Rose and other scoring point guards play the game. Even as he battles continued injury woes, Rose displays traces of one of the best scorers in the game and evades defenders to get to the charity stripe at a very efficient rate. He really has a special ability to absorb contact and draw fouls.
As this season proved full well, however, New York needs more than that in a point guard. Rose appeared to have a one-track mind all too often. He likes to score and be embraced as "the man" on offense. What's more, a player like him needs the ball in his hands to find success. Smith Jr. isn't all that different. The triangle offense doesn't exactly favor that kind of player and it isn't what this team needs.
With so much talent and evident potential already shining brightly in the front court, the Knicks need a point guard who can make them better. They need an unselfish player -- one who can develop trust in his teammates to get the job done.
As a collegiate player, Smith Jr. was largely tasked with carrying his team on his shoulders and even then, success didn't always follow. Because of this, it may be difficult for him to defer to others while adjusting to a new culture in New York. There's a silver lining with the incoming rookie, though. Unlike Rose, Smith, Jr. may not necessarily be set in his ways. If the Knicks exercise patience and take the time needed to nurture the 19-year-old, perhaps there's more of an opportunity for him to ripen and establish more versatility in his game.
As far as the Knicks are concerned, Smith, Jr. may be the worst case scenario among a handful of very favorable ones. Is that enough for the team to consider drafting another positional player? Not quite. The need for a point guard is incredibly pressing. He may be the underdog amid the top-tier options, but Smith Jr. would still provide New York with one of the substantial building blocks this team desperately craves. The eighth pick should be considered a floor general or bust.