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Terquavion Smith's Scoring | The Friday Screener
Terquavion Smith's electric scoring could make him the most surprising one-and-done prospect in the 2022 NBA Draft.
In nearly every draft, there is a surprising one-and-done prospect who is picked much earlier than most people anticipated. This year, Terquavion Smith could very easily be that player. The North Carolina State Wolfpack guard forced his way into the 2022 NBA Draft consideration through his explosive scoring.
At 6’4” and 160 lbs., Smith’s body is far from ready for NBA competition. He is one of the slightest prospects in the country, but it is undeniable that there is an NBA player lurking in there. Despite his physical limitations, Smith still averaged 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.1 assists on 40/37/70 shooting splits. Smith was also one of the most prolific three-point shooters in the country as he attempted 8.1 threes per game and his threes per 100 possessions of 15.2 ranked first among all players from high major conferences with a usage rate over 25, per Barttorvik.com. Smith’s current physical limitations are a legitimate concern, but his freak athleticism combined with his scoring versatility is what is drawing comparisons to players like Anfernee Simons.
Given his size and skill set, Smith will likely spend most of his time as a lead ball-handler once he reaches his prime, which means he’ll be running a significant amount of pick-and-roll. This season, Smith scored 0.634 points per possession (PPP) as the pick-and-roll ball-handler (31st percentile), per Synergy. Not an ideal number, but when we take a further dive in, we can make some sense of it and find encouraging trends.
On 80.1% of his pick-and-roll possessions, Smith dribbled off the screen and scored 0.704 PPP (22nd percentile). Of these possessions, he took a dribble jumper 56.8% of the time and scored 0.704 PPP (26th percentile), took a runner 16.8% of the time and scored 0.857 PPP (58th percentile), and attacked the rim 24.8% of the time and scored 0.581 PPP (5th percentile). As we dive into the upcoming clips, it will become evident that the concern with Smith’s poor pull-up shooting numbers in this realm isn’t mechanics based but instead shot selection based. Additionally, Smith’s poor at-rim finishing shouldn’t be a surprise given his physical stature. While both of those are significant concerns, let’s focus on the promising signs first before diving into the improvement areas at the end.
When Smith doesn’t force poor shot attempts out of the pick-and-roll, he can be a deadly scorer. Here, Smith dribbles tightly off the screen well behind the arc. It may be a questionable decision by Caleb Love to go over the screen that far out, but Smith’s shooting prowess makes it understandable. Smith quickly attacks the retreating drop defender. Once Smith recognizes that Armando Bacot isn’t going to step up, Smith takes one side step to the elbow, making Love’s recovery that much more difficult, and knocks down the open jumper.
This was a pretty simplistic read and execution, but too frequently players don’t make the simple decision. Smith attacked a zone he found success in all season, 0.727 PPP in the mid-range (53rd percentile), and he executed. Smith also scored 1.048 PPP (90th percentile) on jumpers within 17 feet. Not entirely relevant, but a fun fact nonetheless.
Here, Smith shows why Love went over the screen in the previous clip. Smith again receives a screen well behind the arc and the defender immediately retreats under it. Seeing his defender retreat to nearly the free-throw line, Smith approaches the arc, uses a slight jab step to freeze his defender, and hops into an open three-pointer, a shot he scored 1.033 PPP on (62nd percentile) and which accounted for 83.1% of his jump shot attempts.
The concern with Smith’s pick-and-roll scoring is his inability to finish at the rim. However, there are some encouraging signs. First, Smith scored 0.7 PPP (41st percentile) on floaters, which isn’t an overwhelming number, but it is good enough to suggest it is a legitimate tool for him. Second, Smith produced flashes of extremely crafty and aware finishing on the inside.
Here, Smith comes hard off the screen and snakes back across the free-throw line to impede his defender’s recovery. Smith then uses another hesitation at the opposite elbow while avoiding the dig by the help defender before exploding to the rim. Smith’s hesitation disrupted his defender’s pursuit, but it also allowed his teammate to initiate a pseudo-screen with a post-up attempt. Instead of getting all the way to the rim where the defender may be able to contest his shot, Smith pulls up short and knocks down the floater.
This time, Smith uses a rescreen to help him get all the way to the rim. The second screen eliminates Smith’s defender and allows Smith to attack downhill. Smith gets Mark Williams to turn his hips with a lightning-quick in-and-out dribble before crossing over to attack Williams’s high foot. This move makes Williams a fraction slow to recover but still puts Smith under pressure. As Smith explodes to the rim, he leaps into Williams’s body to negate Williams’s shot-blocking ability while also extending the ball in his right hand to a spot Williams can’t reach.
Again, Smith does an excellent job of protecting the ball at the rim. After getting the mismatch, Smith easily blows past the defender. Instead of going straight to the rim, though, Smith decelerates, which throws off the defender’s timing, and extends with his right hand for the finish.
While Smith’s pick-and-roll scoring craft needs some improvement (not uncommon for most young guards), his isolation scoring is pretty deadly. This season, Smith scored 1.047 PPP (88th percentile) in isolation and scored 0.777 PPP (51st percentile) on 130 attempts when shooting off the dribble. Smith found success both in shooting jumpers and in driving out of isolation as he scored 1.263 PPP (86th percentile) and 0.913 PPP (59th percentile), respectively.
Here, Smith takes advantage of his defender giving him the middle drive (kids, this is not how to play defense). Smith uses a hang dribble that gets his defender moving his hips in preparation to turn and chase. Smith counters the defensive blunder with a crisp crossover into a deep step-back three.
Again, Smith shows off his impressive footwork and burst. Despite the height difference, Smith is guarded by John Butler, who is an exceptional perimeter defender. Smith does an excellent job of setting up Butler with a series of dribble moves to counter Butler’s impressive footwork. Smith initially sets up the blowby attempt before stepping back and appearing to reset. Instead of resetting, Smith uses a jab step that gets Butler leaning just enough. Smith quickly hops back into his shot and knocks down the step-back three.
Smith’s impressive and dynamic ball-handling allows him to create space on the perimeter, but it also helps him get to the rim. Here, Smith gets the mismatch and decides to attack. Smith uses a slight head fake that gets his defender to lurch at the would-be shot attempt. This move allows Smith to attack the defender’s high foot and blow past him. As Smith attacks, he secures the ball over the off-ball dig attempt and angles his body to the opposite side of the rim where the help defender can’t block his shot.
The real intrigue with Smith’s scoring is the on-ball creation, but he is almost more effective as an off-ball scorer. To be clear, Smith is not a good off-ball player as he only had three possessions that ended with a cut all season and ranked in the 30th percentile in PPP when running off screens. However, Smith’s absurd outside shooting, makes him a deadly spot-up scorer where he scored 1.194 PPP (93rd percentile). Additionally, Smith scored 1.229 PPP (87th percentile) shooting off the catch, 1.048 PPP (68th percentile) when guarded, and 1.676 PPP (97th percentile) when left open. Even though Smith didn’t display much off-ball movement, his quick release, limitless range, and unmatched confidence make him a lethal off-ball shooter.
Being an elite standstill shooter is great, but in the NBA, players have to be able to do something when defenders run them off their spot. Smith rarely attacked the rim out of spot-up situations, but he proved he could attack closeouts and create shots as he scored 1.417 PPP (97th percentile) when taking a pull-up after spotting up.
Here, Smith forces the aggressive closeout despite being well behind the arc. Smith attacks the defender’s momentum, finds an open pocket in the mid-range, and knocks down the pull-up jumper before either defender can get a hand in his face.
This time, the defender closes out more in control and takes away the baseline drive. Knowing he has to attack quickly with the shot clock running down, Smith recognizes that the baseline is taken away and a drive to the middle would be immediately met by a help defender. Smith takes one dribble to the side, plants his left foot, and explodes to create a significant amount of space before draining the three.
Smith is a twitchy athlete, but he has significantly more vertical pop than his frame suggests. We don’t see it much in the half-court offense as he struggles to finish through contact, but in transition, Smith is a high-flyer as he scored 1.191 PPP (77th percentile).
Smith also shows more of his burst and change of pace in transition. Here, Smith brings it up the left wing and monitors what the opposing big man is doing in the paint. Smith sees the opposing big turn his back and knows he has a lane to the rim. Without hesitation, Smith hits another gear, flies past his defender, and contorts his body to finish the uncontested layup.
Instead of pure speed, Smith shows off how valuable his hesitation can be in transition. Smith’s quick trigger lures the defender into biting on the hesitation move, but Smith has other plans as he attacks the rim. With a clear runway and the absence of a rim protector, Smith explodes for the dunk.
Going off the highlights alone would make anyone think that Smith is an elite scorer, and in some facets, he is. However, there are meaningful issues that need correcting. This section isn’t a damnation of Smith’s abilities—just things that need work to ensure he can produce at the level we all hope and think he can.
First, Smith’s frame is far from NBA-ready. I freely recognize that almost every college prospect in the history of basketball has gotten stronger as they’ve aged, and I expect Smith to as well. However, his slender frame hampered him against college rim protectors, and it will be a massive hurdle for him against NBA defenders.
This season, Smith scored only 0.757 PPP (7th percentile) at the rim. Smith also had the second-lowest free-throw rate among high major conference players with a usage rate of at least 25. Smith not only struggles to finish through contact, but he also frequently avoids it all together.
Here, Smith is almost in an identical situation as we saw earlier as he forces the mismatch and attacks downhill. This time, though, Smith panics as he approaches the lane as there is a help defender. Instead of initiating contact with his retreating defender and protecting the ball, Smith rushes his shot, jumps to the side to avoid as much contact as possible, and flips up a wild shot attempt.
The other major concern with Smith’s scoring is his shot selection. The freshman had an absurdly impressive 13 games with over 20 points, but he also had 15 games where he shot under 40% from the floor. Smith doesn’t lack confidence and that can result in some spectacular shot-making, but it also generates wild shots that won’t be tolerated in the NBA.
Here, Smith is blitzed out of the pick-and-roll and forced back to almost the logo. As he turns the corner, the skip pass to the corner shooter is open, but Smith has his mind set on attacking. Smith’s defender recovers and puts Smith under pressure. Smith continues attacking the rim, despite the heavy defensive pressure and the help defender remaining on the block and not recovering to the strongside corner shooter. Smith ignores a simple read that should be made every time to the corner shooter and throws up a heavily contested shot.
Terquavion Smith showed time and time again that he has tremendous upside, especially as a scorer. He can score in a variety of ways and isn’t shy from launching from outside. Adding muscle, getting more comfortable with contact, and improving his shot selection are necessities, but the foundation of an NBA scoring guard is there. Smith may end up returning to school if NBA teams tell him he isn’t ready physically, but don’t be surprised if an NBA team takes a swing on this unexpected freshman phenom in the 2022 NBA Draft.