Despite falling stock, freshman guard decides to leave Arkansas in pursuit of professional career
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – In a move that was surprising to no one, Arkansas guard Nick Smith, Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft.
The only thing that led some to suspect he might return is concern that he might not be ready for the NBA. That stigma caused him to drop significantly in draft projections throughout the season, especially after an NCAA Tournament performance where he looked overwhelmed more often than not on both ends of the floor.
He's rated the second highest potential draft pick from this season's Razorbacks at No. 17. Guard Anthony Black has the highest rated projection at No. 11.
"Smith missed parts of the season with injury and still trying to find his rhythm. He’s a score first player who needs to get more efficient putting the ball in the basket, but has a lot of scoring upside." – NBA Draft Room
If he goes at 17, he will currently be a pick of the Golden State Warriors, a team highly familiar to Musselman. He head Hog not only coached there, but shipped former Arkansas guard Moses Moody to the Warriors back in 2021 with the No. 14 pick.
Bleacher Report also lists him as a stock falling prospect .
After finishing 2-for-10 against Illinois, Nick Smith Jr. went scoreless in 16 minutes against Kansas before watching most of the second half on the bench. He’s struggled to balance shot-hunting with scoring within the offense. It’s worth noting that Arkansas shoots poorly as a team, which impacts spacing, particularly for Smith since Anthony Black doesn’t require defenders to stay attached off the ball. Regardless, scouts have noticed that Smith’s shot selection includes a heavy dose of contested pull-ups and floaters. In 11 games since returning from injury, he’s totaled only 19 points at the rim, showing a tendency to avoid contact by taking early runners. And he’s only hit 32.3 percent of his shots off the catch. Meanwhile, while the jumpers keep missing, Smith hasn’t been able to flash enough playmaking for scouts to picture him as a lead ball-handler at the NBA level.
Smith missed more than half his games as a Razorback. Over the course of 17 games, the freshman guard averaged 12 . 5 points per game.
Helping that average was a stretch of four games where in three he averaged 25 points while posting 12 in the other. Despite the three losses, it was a high point for Smith as he hit 31-of-73 shots for 42 percent against Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky.
This puts the official count of Razorbacks who won't be returning to play for Eric Musselman next season at two with Kamani Johnson out eligibility. Arkansas signed Layden Blocker and Baye Fall in the early signing period, which will fill those two spots.
It is presumed Smith will receive an invite to the NBA Combine on May 16. The draft will take place on June 22
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