One of the nation’s top players out of high school, Nick Smith Jr. is a name that could potentially be a lottery pick in the upcoming 2023 NBA Draft. So, will that happen, and if not, when might the Arkansas guard hear his name called this June?
SEC Basketball 2023 NBA Draft Preview: Arkansas G Nick Smith Jr.
As mentioned previously, Smith was one of the nation’s top recruits out of high school, rated as a five-star combo guard out of in-state North Little Rock High School in Arkansas. Smith was also considered as the No. 1 overall player in the 2022 class according to the 247Sports Composite.
Named to the Naismith Player of the Year and Wooden Award watch lists prior to his freshman season, Smith would go on to start in 14-of-17 games for the Razorbacks this past year, while also missing time due to an injury. Across those 17 games, Smith would average a combined 12.5 PPG, 1.6 RPG, and 1.7 APG, while also shooting 33.8% from three and 74% from the free throw line.
While the sample size was shortened, Smith showed during his lone season at Arkansas that he is certainly a talented player offensively. Labeled as the nation’s top combo guard out of high school, the 6-foot-4 Smith excels at creating his own shots, and even despite not having the greatest true shooting percentages compared to some of the other prospects in this draft, did show an ability to make those shots from almost everywhere on the floor this past season.
Smith is also a very capable passer offensively, and has the athleticism to be a strong defender in the NBA on the defensive end. Simply put, Smith could have a significant amount of upside in the NBA, but will still likely need to improve in a few areas as well.
One of the biggest question marks surrounding Smith’s transition to the NBA is likely his injury a year ago at Arkansas, as the former five-star missed a significant number of games due to right knee management. Smith will also likely need to improve on the defensive end in order to reach his full potential in the NBA, as well as his shot making, as he shot only 37.6% from the field this past season.
Potential Draft Range
While not a likely top five pick, it’s still possible that Smith comes off the board at some point in the back-half of the lottery. There is also a chance however that Smith could fall past pick No. 14 as well, and if that were to happen, then the former five-star could potentially be one of the top steals of the draft.
Smith will be Arkansas’ second lottery pick in the 2023 NBA Draft alongside teammate Anthony Black, likely coming at some point between picks No. 6-14.