Expectations were high entering the season for NC State’s prized recruit. Dennis Smith was pegged as the top recruit in his class by some publication, even more prior to tearing his ACL. Fast forward nine games into the season and his averages are 18.3 PPG, 5 APG, and 3.7 RPG. At a glance, not a bad stat line for a true freshman.
Efficency has not been a calling card for Smith, connecting on just 40% from the field, and 26% from beyond the arc. Decision making and shot selection have also been erratic at times. Why is this? Well, let us look into a play that should be Smith’s bread and butter and one that truly caters to his strengths. The pick and roll. As basic of a play in basketball, yet one of the hardest plays to defend if used properly.
NC State and Smith have not had great returns on the pick and roll? On the surface, it appears that State has the parts to make this a profitable play. They have athletic bigs, and they have a point guard who thrived in the pick and roll in high school and AAU.
Smith has been paired with Malik Abu and BeeJay Anya for the majority of ball screens. However, he has had more success when paired with Abu. BeeJay Anya is problematic because he takes up so much space and is a non-threat from outside 5 feet. BeeJay’s defender can simply hang back and play safety on the ball handler. Anya can be a great off-ball screener but is not an ideal pick and roll player.
Abu and Smith have connected on some great pick and rolls; however, Abu has not garnered respect for his jump shot. Defenses have adjusted to hedge hard and then get back to Abu to prevent the lob. Leaving Smith with little space which has forced bad decisions on his part.
Lastly, there has not been the fluid movement from the other three players on the court. NC State’s guards have been spectators too often on the perimeter. Instead of actively creating space and scoring options for themselves and Smith. Maverick Rowan’s absence hindered State’s ability to create space, as he can space the floor with his shot. NC State has got to get more movement from their perimeter players to maximize their potential this season.
Omer Yurtseven’s arrival will be a welcome addition. He can thrive in both pick and roll and pick and pop scenarios. Abu will benefit as well as he should get more touches close to the basket. Not only will this make it extremely difficult on defenses but it will help Smith operate in space, which is what he needs to maximize his talents.
Smith can also be helped by giving up the ball and getting it back. By getting the entry pass to the wing Smith will find himself in higher percentage areas. He will be able to catch the ball on the wing coming off a screen and then can work the pick and roll out of his triple threat position. Smith can then turn more corners and have more space to operate, which caters to his strengths.
State could also experiment with mixing up pick and roll partners, for example, have Rowan and Smith work together, or Smith and Henderson. Even better have Smith be the screener on occasion to create mismatches.
NC State’s other guys must move while all of this is taking place if they can then they will get open looks. Basketball is all about movement, and State has not had the needed fluidity on the offensive end. All of the best offenses in today’s game are built upon movement and sharing the basketball.