Lonzo Ball was the most famous college basketball player during the 2016-2017 season, in part because of the off-court persona of his father. Markelle Fultz began the year as the consensus No. 1 overall prospect and did little to take away from that belief with a stellar performance. De’Aaron Fox was, at least in some ways, overshadowed by his backcourt partner in Malik Monk, but it would be tough to argue that playing college hoops in Lexington provides anything but the best opportunity for exposure.
Then, there is Dennis Smith.
Because Fultz operated in relative obscurity on a (very) disappointing Washington team, the future star occupied the corner as the best prospect that did not appear in the NCAA Tournament. While Smith’s NC State squad wasn’t as anonymous as Washington, the Wolfpack also wildly underachieved to the point where his coach, Mark Gottfried, was let go before the campaign even came to close.
A (very) small portion of that failure could lay at Smith’s feet, if only because his effort level waned considerably at times on the defensive end this season. With that said, the 6’2, 190-pound point guard was easily the brightest spot on the Wolfpack roster in averaging 18.1 points and 6.2 assists per game (in 34.8 minutes) and it was quite easy to see why Smith is universally seen as a top-10 player in this year’s NBA Draft class.
There are reasons that Fultz and Ball rank above Smith on most NBA Draft lists, if only because both bring different and more polished approaches. Still, Smith is likely the best pure athlete of the bunch and that kind of explosiveness in a lead guard is very much “in” when it comes to the current NBA. It remains to be seen if he can adequately run an offense at the professional level if asked to facilitate through other people but Smith’s defensive ceiling is very real based on traits and lingering knee issues look, at least for now, to be on the back burner.
Dennis Smith isn’t nearly the household name of some of his counterparts but, even after a fantastic NCAA Tournament performance from De’Aaron Fox, it would be difficult to slip Smith out of the top three at the position before June. At any rate, he is one of the more underrated players in this class from a casual fan’s perspective and Dennis Smith is a name that every NBA Draft follower needs to be familiar with in the (very) near future.
Where does Smith stack up against the rest of the class as NBA Draft season heats up in the wake of the college season? Let’s find out.