In Saturday’s piece on incoming Duke freshman Harry Giles, we took a look at his all-around game, and more specifically how the young forward can recover his 2nd torn ACL injury. While much attention will rightfully go towards Giles, there’s another top incoming freshman that has been going through his own knee issues.
That prospect would be incoming NC State freshman guard Dennis Smith, who tore his left ACL in an Adidas Nations event in early August, months before his senior season was set to begin. Similar to Giles, Smith’s torn ACL was not enough to deter colleges from pursuing the talented guard. The likes of Kentucky, Duke, Wake Forest, Louisville, North Carolina and NC State were knocking on Smith’s door even after his injury.
While title contenders like Kentucky and Duke were looked at as extremely viable choices, Smith ended up surprising folks by picking NC State. That move is surprising as the NC State Wolfpack have been a respectable team over the course of the last few years but definitely not the kid of school that would snag arguably the best high school prospect in the country.
Perhaps the main reason behind that decision was the close proximity between Fayetteville (where Dennis Smith went to high school) and Raleigh, North Carolina (location of NC State). After declaring to NC State, Smith also announced that he’d enroll in the school in January. Enrolling early allowed him to get an early start on education and to rehab with the school’s trainers. Having the school close to home allowed Smith to do those tasks at NC State while still being close to his friends and family back in Fayetteville.
Rehabbing seems to have done wonders for Smith, as the young guard seems to be healthier than ever. During the recent Adidas Nations, Smith shined as he continuously exploded to the rim with a slew of monster slams. While these highlights are very minuscule in the grand scheme of things, it’s definitely enough to get NC State fans very excited for the upcoming year.
That excitement from NC State fans is definitely warranted, as Smith has a claim to be the best guard in college basketball. Standing 6’2 with a 6’3 wingspan, Smith may seem undersized for a modern-day NBA point guard but makes up for due to a strong frame and incredible athleticism. Smith’s athleticism is evident whether he’s working in transition or in the half-court, as he stands as a threat for a huge highlight reel play whether he’s working in transition or half-court.
Smith actually might be a bigger threat inside half-court sets due to that athleticism and ball-handling. The 6’2 guard possess terrific handles that allow him to break down any opposition with crossovers or change of speed dribbles. Following that initial breakdown, Smith has great control of his movements to the rim, as he can change directions on the dime. That allows him to either go for a solid floater or explode to the rim for a layup or slam.
Those terrific handles has also helped Smith evolve as a facilitator. On those drives to the rim, Smith’s smart enough to recognize whether to go for a score or dish it out to a teammate. He’s extremely effective on those drive-and-dish attempts, as Smith does a great job of either working the ball to a big or perimeter teammate. That first example is seen in the below play, as Smith makes a beautiful drive to the rim where he makes a precise dish to Kentucky freshman Bam Adebayo.
That passing acumen is evident when Smith is at the perimeter inside pick-and-rolls. There, he’s able to look over the court and make the necessary dish. Although those drive and dish attempts are more impressive, Smith will need to show himself as a versatile facilitator to establish himself as a top prospect.
Another way for Smith to establish himself as an elite prospect is his work as a shooter. Although it isn’t a huge part of his game, Smith has a plethora of potential in that area as he can be effective whether he’s working off-the-dribble or with his feet set. In either area, Smith looks solid as he has a nice stroke that’s quick and has a high release point. As you can see in the play below, Smith looks comfortable as he works around the screen and hits the jumper that could possibly be behind the NBA 3-point line.
Smith’s quick feet and strong frame could also allow him to have success on the defensive end. Although he sometimes has lapses in judgement, Smith is a force on that end when he’s focused as he does a nice job of sticking onto his opposition like velcro. That nature is seen in the play below, as Smith sticks right onto the opposition before he forces the steal.
If that fixed ACL is able hold on through entire year, Dennis Smith has a real possibility to be the first guard picked in next year’s NBA Draft. While there’s a slew of worthy candidates, whether they’d be incoming freshmen, upperclassmen or international prospects, Smith might have the tools to overtake that crop of players.
Smith’s athleticism, handles, jumper and solid court vision are the traits that allows him to be versatile, which is what NBA teams look for in a modern-day point guard. Whether or not Smith can reach that plateau is a journey that should any basketball fan excited as he we head into the upcoming season.