I’m surprised that this hasn’t been written.
I fully expected Faried when he slipped. Then I refresh my browser at work and what?? Nolan Smith?? My immediate guess was that Smith was a ‘Nate guy’ and a after their success with Roy he was the type of player that management would consider in the future. I didn't like Nolan Smith as a pick from day one though I’m a person that has to check my own inventory when I don’t like something. I had to ask myself, weren’t you wrong about Brandon Roy for the same reasons?
Really I was only half wrong about Roy. I thought he was a good pick where we got him I just did not like the thought of him going where we pick Aldridge. Where I was wrong is that I didn’t see any star qualities to his game and I watched him play all through college. It seemed like we were getting an Aaron McKie with a better J.
So I eased off of Smith. I didn’t rule him out as a PGotF candidate. Before the draft I listed the guards I liked. First it was Mack then Jenkins, Jackson, and finally Shumpert (wow did the Knicks reach on him) but I threw in a maybe on Smith.
So why the maybe? Two reasons. One he is a Duke PG. If he was playing on another team he would have been on the list for sure. Disregard one and dones like Irving, guys that last in Duke put up numbers that don’t always translate well. I keep thinking about how great William Avery looked at Duke but besides him and maybe Dawkins if you want to go back that far who has really underachieved? Its been guys that weren’t that talented or off the court injuries. I didn't even think Duhon would make a team. The other reason was the similarities to Roy. That brought Smith back near the list.
Beyond the obvious of them both being 4 year guys who started slow there is a lot more. Roy was a SG who played a lot of PG in college. Smith is a PG who played a lot of SG. They are both versatile and that is often overlooked when you are trying to find a gem in the draft. That is what separates him from the typical PGs that are labeled busts or cant stick in the league. Its always guys that lack versatility. They have one great strength that doesn’t translate at all, or its taken away when team’s key on it. PGs that lack versatility can lose their entire game when one aspect is removed.
Most overachievers have weakness and a key strength. Jack of all trades types rarely pan out so the odds of Nolan being the PGotF are still slim. Roy is proof that it can work out. Perhaps Smith’s biggest weakness is his age and the fact that he isn’t great in one area besides ball handling. Again that was Roy’s greatest asset but that is often ignored for guards. Its not sexy because this isn’t an And-1 video right? Speaking of sexy. You could go on and on about how boring both were in college. Neither were known for the big dunk yet both will bring it on occasion. Neither are uncanny athletes especially now with Roy's knee.
Both Brandon and Nolan have a strong self awareness off the court but their ego is tied to winning. People are flawed and they make mistakes the ’character’ guys just avoid them far more often because they are self aware and humble enough at the same time.
The most prominent thing that both Brandon and Nolan now isn't their character. They share a jersey though they might not wear it together this year. They are now Trail Blazers. People often mention that Roy slipped in the draft because of his knee. Before his SR year and for much of his SR year he wasn’t even slotted in the top ten of a weak draft so Roy actually went higher than he expected through much of his college career. I wonder if Smith will have a similar epiphany. Slated for the late 1st and maybe 2nd round he is declared a ’Nate guy’ and picked near the top twenty. It should give him some confidence.