Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.
Dennis Smith Jr.
School: North Carolina State
Some players are timid when returning to the court after suffering a serious injury. Don't count Dennis Smith Jr. among of them.
Smith burst onto the scene at North Carolina State just over a year after tearing the ACL in his left knee. The electric point guard averaged 18.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds per game en route to being named ACC Freshman of the Year over a crop that included fellow first-round prospects Jayson Tatum and Jonathan Isaac.
Smith's NBA-ready build, speed and elite athleticism are elements that teams would love to have from their floor general.
The case for Smith
The Sixers have been lacking an explosive guard that can finish at the rim for years now. And they likely have never had a player with this level of liftoff at the point guard position. Just take a look.
Outside of the flash, Smith still possesses all of the tools of a quintessential point guard. The 19-year-old recorded triple-doubles against Virginia Tech and Syracuse last season to become the first player ever to perform the feat multiple times in ACC play.
With the Sixers' planning to have Ben Simmons take over a majority of the ball-handling duties, it would be a major plus for them to add a PG that can still impact the game in a variety of ways.
The case against Smith
Much like Simmons, Smith has some stigma attached to him for failing to lift his team up during his lone collegiate season. How much of a leader — particularly at the point guard slot — is he if his NC State team finished with only a 15-17 (4-14 in ACC play) record and missed the NCAA Tournament?
From a numbers standpoint, Smith's shooting isn't overly impressive. He shot 45.5 percent from the field, 35.9 percent from three-point range and 71.5 percent from the free throw line. Plus, he averaged a hefty 3.4 turnovers per game.
Defensively, Smith did appear lazy at times and was part of a Wolfpack squad that ranked dead last defensively in the ACC. That type of effort certainly wouldn't sit well with Brett Brown.
While other top point guard prospects Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox rightfully are being considered ahead of Smith, he possesses one of basketball's greatest equalizers: supreme athleticism.
Smith has a certain spring to his game and his high-end speed will help make him a challenge to guard even at the NBA level, especially in the open court.
He does have the body to defend in the league, but it remains to be seen if he has the desire.
The Sixers are surely doing their homework on Smith and could absolutely use a player with his offensive skill set, but with other top-tier options available, they likely go in a different direction at No. 3. However, he won't be on the board long after.