Commentary

The evolution of Nolan Smith

Blue Devils' star has become more of a distributor -- and more efficient -- in 2011

Originally Published: February 17, 2011
By Matt Giles | ESPN Insider
Nolan Smith Bob Donnan/US PresswireNolan Smith has become more of a playmaker for Duke this season.

Ever want a way to compare every player in college basketball? John Hollinger has your answer. With his college player efficiency ratings (PER), we can now evaluate the productivity of Division I hoopsters from Syracuse to Siena to see who's really helping his team the most.

Here's the key difference between Hollinger's NBA PER and the college PER: The vastly different schedules of college teams have an impact. To address this, we've broken down Division I schools into three sections: high majors (teams that play in a major conference or against elite nonconference programs, such as the Gonzaga Bulldogs), mid-majors (teams from conferences that are usually in the running for at least one at-large NCAA tournament bid) and low majors (teams from conferences that traditionally earn only an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament).

High majors

Entering Durham as a top-100 recruit, Nolan Smith has enjoyed one of the more successful college careers in Duke's history. Four consecutive NCAA tournaments (barring a complete collapse over the next few weeks, Duke is a shoo-in for a No. 2 seed) and a national title constitute a successful four-year ride. Yet, for the first time since stepping onto Mike Krzyzewski Court, Smith is facing a scenario he has never experienced before -- thanks to Kyrie Irving's injury, Smith has had to act as a playmaker and assist-maker.

Smith did average a decent assist number in 2010 (3.0 apg), but he did not need to worry about generating the team's offense; those duties fell to former guard Jon Scheyer. Smith was able to, for the most part, play off-guard and concentrate on his offense.


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