With the decisions of OG Anunoby, Thomas Bryant, and James Blackmon Jr. to remain in this year’s NBA Draft, newly hired head coach Archie Miller is going to have to rely heavily on his younger players to put the Indiana basketball program back on the map.
The second 2017 prospect to commit to former Indiana Head Coach Tom Crean was 6-foot-7 SF Justin Smith. A Buffalo Grove, Illinois native, Smith attended Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire, Illinois and is the 89th ranked player in the final 2017 ESPN100 Rankings.
As a sophomore in 2015, Smith helped lead Stevenson to an Illinois Class 4A State Championship along with his former high school teammate, Villanova guard Jalen Brunson.
Here is a scouting report on what Indiana is getting in Smith.
Name/Position: Justin Smith, SF
High School: Adlai Stevenson High School (Buffalo Grove, Ill.)
Height/Weight: 6-foot-7, 215 lbs
Player Rankings: 4-stars, ESPN (89th), 247 (76th), Scout (94th)
For someone of his height, Smith is a freak athletically. Standing at 6-foot-7, Smith knows how to finish above the rim and use his strength and leaping ability to get easy buckets inside the paint. Smith is at his best in the open floor. With his athleticism, he's very dangerous in transition which will force opponents to put an emphasis on getting back on defense quickly after every offensive possession.
An area of his game where Smith is improving is his jump shot making ability. Referred to as more of a slasher, Smith has shown flashes a developing jump shot that ranges from anywhere inside the arc to a couple of feet or so outside the three-point line. If Smith can become consistent from three-point land, it will force defenses to play up in his face which gives him room to blow by them and get more looks close to the basket.
Other schools that recruited Smith and recruiting experts agreed he has one of the highest ceilings in the Class of 2017. Over the past couple years, Indiana has done an outstanding job developing players and turning them from little-known high school recruits to NBA Draft lottery picks. That said, Smith has all the physical tools and raw talent to turn into an exceptional player for the Indiana program.
The college game is a whole different animal to that of high school. Smith was a monster compared to other players on the floor in his high school days, but, for him to be able to keep up in college, he's going to need to add some muscle to his frame.
While for the most part, Smith has a high motor on both ends off the floor, there have been times I've watched him, and he almost looks lost during the game. He would be lackadaisical, and instead of being aggressive, he would sit back and not dominate the game like he's shown cases of doing before.
How He Fits
Though it's unclear how Smith will be utilized with a new coach and different system, there's no doubt he has the potential to become an exceptional player for the Hoosiers. Looking back at past IU players, Smith is very similar to Troy Williams, who just finished his NBA rookie season with the Houston Rockets after going undrafted in this past year's NBA Draft. In his first two years in Bloomington, Williams was a one-dimensional player who solely relied on his athleticism. But when Williams started to develop a consistent jump shot, he became a much better player, and his improvement begun to show as his draft stock went up and his team's performance.
While comparing the two would be unfair, Smith is very similar to Williams in that regard. Much of Smith's game is centered around his athleticism like William's was in the early stages of his career at Indiana. Smith will be able to use his unusual athletic ability to build up other various assets of his game and develop into a player like, if not better than Troy Williams.
Though Smith may not get a ton of minutes in his freshman year at Indiana, all the resources are there for him to become a key asset in the Hoosiers' future success under Archie Miller.