Pros and Cons of Marcus Smart Retooling NBA Draft Stock in Sophomore Season
Marcus Smart disappointed a number of NBA teams when he chose to return as a sophomore in college.
Pegged as a top-five lock and potential No. 1 overall pick, Smart passed on the 2013 draft following a disappointing NCAA tournament showing.
In 2014, he'll be entering shark-infested waters, with elite prospects like Andrew Wiggins, Julius Randle, Jabari Parker and Dante Exum posing as top-notch competition.
There are a few pros and cons that come with the decision of returning to school when your draft stock has already peaked.
Pro: Extra Year to Experiment, Develop
One more year at Oklahoma State means an extra year to improve.
Though Marcus Smart was impressive enough as a freshman to generate top-five looks, there's plenty to build on moving forward.
Smart only shot 40 percent from the floor and 29 percent from downtown while coughing the ball up 3.4 times a game. In terms of execution, he's got work to do.
Execution is all about repetition. And in another year at Oklahoma State, Smart will have the opportunity to get roughly 400 more shot attempts before stepping foot on an NBA floor.
This is also the year he'll look to implement any adjustments he made over the offseason into his gameplay. With a year under his belt, he now knows what to expect and how to better prepare.
Con: No Improvement Could Raise Questions, Hurt Stock
When prospects return as sophomores, NBA scouts are looking for improvement. They want to know a player is capable of getting better before making an investment in him.
By returning, Smart has raised his expectations. The microscope has intensified. He'll be entering the 2013-14 season as arguably the best guard in the country, instead of as a freshman with nothing to lose.
What if Smart repeats with another sub-30 percent three-point shooting season? How many will question if there's a chink in the armor?
Guys like Jared Sullinger, Harrison Barnes and James Michael McAdoo all saw their games get picked apart when returning as sophomores. Sullinger went from being a likely lottery pick in 2011 to No. 21 in the 2012 draft. Barnes fell to No. 7 that year and McAdoo is still in college trying to re-raise his stock.
Smart will have to hold off the nitpickers who will be in attack mode if they see any signs of regression.
Pro: Increase NBA-Readiness
After playing just one college season, Smart quickly transforms from freshman to veteran. That's just how it works nowadays.
And that extra year goes a long way, both physically and mentally.
Smart will enter the pros stronger and wiser than he would have had he left in 2013. This summer he was able to play on the FIBA World Championship team that took gold in Prague. He was also invited to team U.S.A.'s minicamp in Las Vegas, where he practiced and scrimmaged with some of the top NBA players.
With another season to grow and mature, Smart should be better prepared for his eventual NBA rookie year.
Con: Risk of Injury
The risk of injury might be the biggest con of returning to school.
One simple step the wrong way could cost millions of dollars, the way it did for Nerlens Noel.
And the scariest part of all is that it's completely out of Smart's control. There's nothing he can realistically do to prevent it or increase his chances of avoiding it.
Something like an ACL injury (knock on wood) would not only deflate his draft stock, but derail the start of his NBA career.
Given the unpredictability of health, passing on a guaranteed deal for what could be a meaningless college season (in the big picture) is a tough risk to take.
Pro: 2013-14 Offers a Shot to Experience Pressure/Spotlight in NCAA Tournament
With Marcus Smart returning, along with Markel Brown and Le'Bryan Nash, Oklahoma State has the chance to make some serious noise.
Last season, Smart and the Cowboys fell short when they were eliminated after one game of the NCAA tournament.
With roughly the same core returning, Oklahoma State should be a threat to make a run much deeper into March. And for an NBA prospect, there's no better environment that simulates late-game pressure than a March Madness showdown being watched by millions.
We've seen guys like Stephen Curry and C.J. McCollum make their statement to NBA teams in the college postseason. Smart should have the opportunity to make his, as well as gain the valuable experience that comes with playing on the biggest and brightest stage.
Con: Not Much to Gain, Plenty to Lose
In terms of individual draft stock that corresponds with that particular season, Marcus Smart's had been fully maxed out in 2013.
ESPN's Chad Ford reported last May that the Orlando Magic were "heartbroken" when they heard Smart had chose to return.
In 2014, there will be plenty of room for Smart to fall, but not much room for him to climb. He could have trouble getting back to where he was as the likely No. 2 pick—especially in a more competitive draft field.
With a stock that's already peaked, Smart will have more to lose then he'll have to gain this upcoming season.