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Roscoe Smith Deserves Chance to Make Impact with Los Angeles Lakers Next Season

David Murphy@@davem234Featured ColumnistMarch 4, 2015

ONTARIO, CA - OCTOBER 12:  Roscoe Smith #14 of the Los Angeles Lakers handles the ball during the game against the Golden State Warriors on October 12, 2014 at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)
Noah Graham/Getty Images

Toiling away in relative obscurity is a player who could make an impact for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. And in fact, 23-year-old Roscoe Smith already has a job with the purple-and-gold organization.

Smith, a combo forward who went undrafted last June, is currently playing for the Lakers development league team—the Los Angeles Defenders. And at 6’8”, he is averaging a rather astonishing 19.2 points and 11.7 rebounds per game.

The Lakers have been in desperate need of help on the wing in recent years. Their search for answers has included Wesley Johnson, Nick “Swaggy P” Young, and even 6’11” Ryan Kelly who has been curiously cast as a starting small forward in recent games.

Yet Smith grabs more boards than Johnson, Young and Kelly put together.

In fact, Smith is the D-League’s third-leading rebounder—a flat-out hustle player who is continuing to exhibit the same glass-cleaning propensity he showed in college. During the 2013-14 season at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, he averaged 10.9 boards per game.

Kevin Duffy @KevinRDuffy

So Roscoe Smith has turned into the NCAA's Dennis Rodman. Last night was his 2nd straight 20+ rebound game.

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Prior to UNLV, Smith attended UConn where he won an NCAA title as a freshman in 2011.

Silver Screen and Roll’s Dakota Schmidt recently pointed out the effective nature of Smith’s overall game, and why he’d be an ideal prospect for the Lakers:

Smith has proven himself to be one of the finest cutters in the D-League. After he uses that lethal first step to get past his perimeter defender, Smith has a knack for changing directions on a dime, even during penetration, to create space from anybody that may come in his way. Even if he's unable to move away from him, Smith has the ability to square up and hit a floater.

Perhaps the finest part of Smith's overall offensive arsenal is his work on the offensive boards. Despite his slender 6'8” frame, Smith is effective by just simply out-working the opposition. That energetic nature combined with his natural instincts has allowed Smith to average more than four offensive boards per game.

Smith, who leads the D-League with 26 double-doubles, is often thought of for his superior rebounding and defensive willingness. But he’s also a highly efficient scorer as evidenced by his 55 percent mark from the field.

After scoring 38 points on 17-of-19 shooting in a close win against the Reno Bighorns on Dec. 6, Smith—who is often used by the D-Fenders as an undersized power forward—was asked about his offensive outburst.

“I’m a versatile guy,” said Smith to Laker.com’s Joey Ramirez. “In reality, I feel like I’m a small forward, and I’m just doing what the coaches need me to do. I have scoring in my game so it’s nothing new to me. I’m reading what the defense gives me and staying aggressive.”

After going undrafted, the reedy Smith, who weighs just 202 pounds yet has an impressive 7’1.5” wingspan, played for the Lakers summer-league squad where he showed a raw intensity in limited action—averaging five points and 2.2 rebounds in 12.8 minutes per game.

Part of Smith’s failure to connect during the draft had to do with his tweener status and an uncertainty of where he’d fit at the NBA level. He was a shooting guard at Connecticut and a small forward at UNLV, but often plays the kind of inside clean-up game associated with larger frontcourt players.

Summer league led to a Lakers training-camp invite for Smith along with some notable preseason moments, including this alley-oop from fellow rookie Jordan Clarkson:

And while Smith didn’t make the final cut, he did sign on with the organization’s development team. 

Management has kept close tabs on the prospect, bringing him in for a private workout in late November, per RealGM’s Shams Charania.

And while an official call-up has remained elusive, the NBA D-League All-Star represents the kind of player the Lakers could certainly use as they continue forward with a major roster rebuild—long, athletic, and a team player on both ends of the court.

Christina Kaplan @tinakap

.@DFenders Roscoe Smith aka #MrDoubleDouble talks after last nights victory about the teams chemistry>>> http://t.co/sK1uoOUmf7

Los Angeles finds themselves in a curious and unfamiliar place at present, dwelling near the bottom of the NBA standings for a second straight season and trying to rebuild within the stringent financial rules of the most recent collective bargaining agreement.

The front office will rely heavily on the upcoming draft with two potential first-round and two second-round picks, as well as having enough money to sign at least one high-impact player during free agency.

But the team also needs to avail itself of low-cost prospects who sometimes fly under the NBA radar. 

Role players are, after all, the unsung heroes who can add real value to a roster.

Roscoe Smith is such a player at the moment, but there is no guarantee that he’ll remain infinitely available.

Because while the Lakers are one of 17 NBA organizations to have the luxury of owning their own D-League affiliate, it is the NBA itself that pays the player salaries.

In other words, D-Leaguers can be signed by any team unless their draft rights are still actively owned, or unless they have been assigned from a parent team to their own affiliate.

And so Smith remains available, showcasing his talent, energy and work ethic to the league at large.

Hopefully, the Lakers will recognize what they could have, and lock him up in order to take an extended look heading into next season.

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