Nick Smith Jr. crashes out of NBA lottery pick territory in latest mock draft
At one point over the last nine months, Arkansas guard Nick Smith Jr. was projected to go as high as No. 2 in the 2023 NBA Draft.
It feels like longer than that.
Smith, who just finished an up-and-down freshman season with the Razorbacks, is still expected to declare for the draft at some point in the coming weeks. But after the roller coaster year, No. 2 is out of the picture and the lottery is no guarantee.
Sam Vecenie at The Athletic released his latest mock draft just ahead of the Final Four earlier in the week. Vecenie has Smith going 16th to the Atlanta Hawks.
“Smith was one of the top recruits in the 2022 class and proved at lower levels that he can be a terrific tough-shot maker and instant offensive creator,” Vecenie wrote. “Given his injuries, there are real, built-in excuses for why he struggled. But he has some work to do during the pre-draft process to rehabilitate his stock.”
Smith played in just 17 games during his freshman season, most of those missing games due to a knee injury that was never described by Arkansas personnel. He averaged 12.5 points per game on just 37% shooting. In the NCAA Tournament, Smith scored just 17 points on 6-of-23 shooting in three games.
The stock-drop is bad for Smith, but could be good for Arkansas. Because he fell so far – at least in Vecenie’s projections – means an opportunity to rebound with another, preferably healthy, eason at the college level, would benefit the Razorbacks alongside Smith’s draft stock.
Still, those kinds of situations rarely happen and nothing has suggested that it will, either, but it does remain a possibility.
The deadline to declare for the draft is April 13.