Let's keep it simple and honest: Nolan Smith is not expected to make a significant impact this coming NBA season. The Blazers have been criticised and questioned as to why they spent their draft selection on the point guard.
While we are being honest, let's also mention that as Trail Blazers fans, we hold out a secret hope that Nolan Smith will become another household name mentioned with the likes of Terry Porter and Andre Miller—two of the most talented point guards to ever slip on a Portland uniform.
So with that optimism (and honesty) in mind, let's count down the top three roles Nolan Smith with play during the 2011-12 NBA season.
The first and primary (and probably the most fun as well) duty Nolan Smith will be assigned as a Trail Blazer will be to take Brandon Roy out for lunch. Yes, you heard me right. And catch an evening flick with LaMarcus Aldridge, too. Or perhaps Nolan will invite Raymond Felton out for an evening at the local bowling lanes.
Smith needs to ask questions of his teammates; find out what makes them tick. What is Gerald Wallace's favorite flavor of ice cream? Where does Greg Oden prefer to partake in his conditioning jogs? In other words, Smith must get to know the guys he will practically be living with for the next couple of years.
By doing these things, Nolan will begin to develop chemistry with his comrades, something that can go a long way in smoothing out rough edges that may appear later down the road.
We like to think that hard work pays off. Being the first to show up for practice and the last to leave. When the coach tells you to shoot 100 free throws, you shoot 110. You are determined to out-sweat, out-hustle and simply outwork anyone and everyone around you. This is what Nolan Smith will need to do in order to grow into a game-changing player.
No one is expecting Smith to step onto the court and be an instant success story. No season ticket holder is reserving their courtside seats in order to ooh and ah at Smith's razzle-dazzle basketball display. Smith's name and the words "rookie of the year" are not even being uttered in the same paragraph much less the same sentence.
But though Nolan Smith may be off the radar for many, he can use this lack of attention to his advantage—a motivator to grow in his game over the next year and become the surprise sleeper on the 2011 NBA Draft.
When Smith does get a chance to tighten the laces of his sneaks and waltz onto the court at the command of Coach Nate, he must be prepared to bring his A-game and show the coaching staff, his teammates, the fans and his opponents that he is no pushover.
All these late evening chats with Nic Batum over an ice-cold cola, those early morning rises in order to be the first one in the gym—it all comes down to this: being able to showcase your stuff when the coach calls your name.
Surprise the crowd, make them cheer (after all you are a performer—an entertainer as well as an athlete). Give your teammates reason to invest their confidence in you. Strike fear in your opponents that will force them to think twice the next time they try to pull a fast one on you. After all, you are Nolan Smith—the most underrated and unheralded future superstar in the NBA.