When basketball analysts get together on television and the internet this spring to discuss NBA Draft prospects, I can assure you that Lenzelle Smith Jr. won't be the first player that comes up. In fact, he might now be the last, either. Or anywhere in the middle.
The 6'4" senior shooting guard doesn't stand out as a player who can become a star on a professional team somewhere. After all, he could hardly be considered a star player at Ohio State. However, Smith's defense and intangibles could lend themselves to a basketball career somewhere in the world.
Strengths: For a shooting guard, Smith stands out as an outstanding rebounder. He averaged 5.1 boards per contest this past season, and during his three years of playing major minutes for the Buckeyes, he has grabbed over 15 percent of available defensive rebounds. In 2014, his defensive rebounding percentage was third on Ohio State behind LaQuinton Ross and Amir Williams, two frontcourt players who are much more physically imposing than Smith.
With just 2.3 fouls committed per 40 minutes, perimeter defense is another attribute of Smith's that will help him at the next level. Being able to defend one's position is very important for a player like him that lacks an explosive offensive game, and Smith had the advantage of playing for four years under a coach in Thad Matta that is great at teaching tenacious defense.
Weaknesses: Smith's three-point shooting might be considered a strength in the college game, but he hasn't done it with enough efficiency lately to be considered a plus shooter in a pro league. During his sophomore and junior seasons at Ohio State, Smith converted on over 37 percent of his shots from beyond the arc, but in 2014 that figure was down to just 33 percent. That's not outstanding for a player who isn't asked to create his own shot very often. Smith could make a living somewhere as a defender and spot-up shooter, but to do that he's going to have to hit on at least 40 percent of three-pointers. Smith's inside-the-arc game isn't dynamic enough for him to make a living there unless he gets much better at driving to the rim.
Overall: The NBA Draft is all about upside and athleticism these days. Players like Smith whose upside maxes out at "solid role player" are often passed over in favor of prospects with less developed skills who have the chance to turn into something more. Even in the second round, many NBA teams would rather grab a young, toolsy European on a whim than draft a more known quantity like Smith. He just doesn't flash the type of upside that NBA scouts are looking for and will probably have to search elsewhere if he wants to pursue a professional basketball career.