Measuring Marcus Smart's impact

The metrics picture on the Cowboys guard isn't as bleak as you might think

Updated: November 19, 2013, 4:33 PM ET
By John Gasaway | ESPN Insider

Marcus SmartPeter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesMarcus Smart brought about robust improvement for Oklahoma State as a freshman.

Marcus Smart has developed a reputation as the archetypal player that scouts love but statistics ... well, love less. The Oklahoma State sophomore point guard is projected as a 2014 lottery pick even though, as you've no doubt heard by now, he shot just 29 percent on his 3-pointers as a freshman.

That's poor perimeter shooting; there's no two ways about it. And while we're pre-emptively getting all the evaluative bad news out on the table, let's acknowledge that Smart's misses from deep mattered to his team. (The Cowboys were no world-beaters on the offensive glass, either, but a significant portion of that number is often up to a coach's discretion, as Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan once patiently explained to me.) Outside shooting constituted what may have been OSU's most glaring weakness on either side of the ball last season, and Smart launched 131 attempts from out there.

So yes, we've established that Smart's game needs work in at least one area. How's that coming along so far this season?

Ask me again after Oklahoma State hosts Memphis. Thus far, Travis Ford has run his team through a brisk 120-minute tuneup, one comprised of three visiting teams from Division I's bottom third (Mississippi Valley State, Utah Valley and Arkansas-Pine Bluff). The resulting numbers have been suitably lopsided -- the Cowboys, if you're really interested, outscored those three teams by a whopping 0.62 points per possession -- but that's what's supposed to happen when you're a top-10 team playing at home.

As for Smart individually, he's played 136 possessions thus far as a sophomore. He terrorized Utah Valley by registering nine steals in just 25 minutes before Ford mercifully pulled him from the game. And for what it's worth, the All-American has come out of the gate making five of his first 16 attempts from beyond the arc.

It will be helpful, surely, to have more information from Smart, starting with his performance against an opponent the caliber of the Tigers. But the point I want to make today is that, perimeter shooting notwithstanding, the stats on Smart actually aren't quite as bad as you've been led to believe. They just may not be the ones you're used to tracking. In effect, Smart has made Oklahoma State much better by making its defense much, much better.


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