Thunder Draft Preview (Smith, Powell)

By Randy Renner

We continue our look at some of the players the Thunder could be targeting with either the 21st or 29th pick in the June 26th NBA Draft.

We’re beginning with players we believe have been invited in for workouts by the Thunder. On Tuesday we tipped things off with local favorite Markel Brown the Oklahoma State shooting guard and we also profiled UCLA guard/forward Kyle Anderson.

Today the next two on our list, Louisville point guard Russ Smith and Stanford power forward Dwight Powell.

RUSS SMITH (Point Guard, Louisville)

Smith is projected by most draftniks as a second rounder, mostly because of his slight size (6-0, 160) but since the Thunder invited him in for a workout they must believe he is at least interesting enough to either spend their 29th pick to get him or they could also trade down into the second round a grab him there.

If Reggie Jackson moves to shooting guard, or even if he remains Russell Westbrook’s backup the Thunder will need a third PG after the retirement of Derek Fisher.

Smith was outstanding his senior year at Louisville, making 1st Team All-American while averaging 18.2 points and 4.6 assists per game. He shot 46.8 percent overall and 38.7 percent on 3-balls.

If you’ve seen Smith play he night remind you a little of Westbrook with his aggressive and at times out of control play. He also had a tendency to fire up ill-timed 3-point shots before his teammates had a chance to get into good rebounding position (also a bit familiar). At the same time he displayed elite speed and quickness, can score off the dribble or from a standstill. He can create his own shot or for others.

Scouts say he is fearless and his athleticism leads him to believe he can do almost anything but that also leads him toward bad decisions. (Seriously am I writing about Russ Smith or Russ Westbrook)

But during his workout with the Clippers last month Smith was trying to show he had changed (or at least adapted) his ways. He got into the lane regularly, avoided the 3-point line and found open teammates for easy shots. (Hmm GoodRuss-BadRuss Part 2??)

Smith is also highly thought of as a defender, especially out on the perimeter, he may be small but he can be a major pest on the defensive end.

Smith may be a bit underrated by being projected into the middle of the second round, the Thunder may believe that as well since they brought him in for a workout. If OKC GM Sam Presti thinks Smith can become Westbrook Lite he may not hesitate to call his name at #29.

DWIGHT POWELL (Power Forward/Center, Stanford)

Though most people may be looking at both the point and shooting guard positions as needs for the Thunder with the aforementioned departure of Fisher and the likely departure of Butler the Thunder could also be in the market for a big man.

Even though Serge Ibaka and Steven Adams should hold down the post for the next several years, remember both Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison will be playing on their last years of their deals. Perkins probably won’t return and Collison might not either so the need is there to groom someone for the future.

Powell had a breakout type year for Stanford his junior year (2012-13) but last season he failed to continue that progression. He averaged 17.1 points and 8.5 rebounds per 40 minutes his senior year compared to the 18.9 and 11.0 numbers of the year before.

His best offensive move is a very nice right-handed hook shoot that has gotten better and better, the rest of his offensive game can still use some work. His lower body strength isn’t very good and he has a tendency to struggle to maintain the proper position against more physical opponents and has been pretty easy to move off his spots.

Powell is a very smart basketball player (Stanford afterall) so that helps with some things. For instance he has one of the highest assist rates of any big guy in the draft. He’s especially good at finding cutters going to the basket.

He’s also gotten better as a perimeter defender but his lack of lower body strength hurts him as a post defender. He has just 235 pounds on that 6-11 frame so he could probably stand to add another 20 pounds or so.

That wouldn’t be too concerning if Powell was younger but he’ll be 23 when his rookie season begins and may still need another couple of years to get stronger.