Nick Smith Jr. Selected 27th Overall in the 2023 NBA Draft to the Charlotte Hornets

By Evan Kamikow and Kevin McPherson
on 2023-06-22 21:11 PM

FAYETTEVILLE, AR. (KNWA/KFTA) – The long wait is over as a second former Razorback is off the board as Nick Smith Jr., is drafted to the Charlotte Hornets with the 27th overall in the 2023 NBA Draft.

The freshman out of Jacksonville, AR., averaged 12.5 points and 1.6 assists and had 29 assists in his first year in Arkansas. The 6’5 guard started 14 games in the 2022-2023 season after missing time with a right knee injury.

Arkansas freshman guard Nick Smith, Jr., declares for 2023 NBA Draft as expected

Smith Jr. looks to join a Hornets and to make an impact alongside teammates like LaMelo Ball and second overall pick Brandon Miller

After Arkansas teammate and fellow true freshman Anthony Black heard his name called with the No. 6 pick to Orlando, Smith’s selection assured the Razorbacks of having two first-round picks in the same draft, which last happened in the 1992 draft when three Hoop Hogs went in the first round. 

He became the third one-and-done in program history to be drafted, joining Black and former Arkansas star and current Golden State Warriors guard Moses Moody, who was drafted 14th overall in 2021.

Smith is part of the men’s program having a player(s) selected in five consecutive drafts (2019-2023). He is the 40th Hog to be selected all-time in the NBA Draft.

Our Hogville scouting report on Smith — he only took part in NBA team interviews during the combine before excelling at a Klutch Sports pro day workout and individual meetings with a select number of NBA teams — is that he is arguably the most gifted offensive guard in the draft, and his 5 games of scoring 20 or more points in only 17 games played at Arkansas, ability to create open looks at all three levels, underrated passing ability, length (6-9 wingspan) and quickness (first step and change-of-direction) combo, and alpha-confidence were all evident in his small sample size as a Hog. His lack of availability, lower-than-anticipated shooting efficiency across the board, low assist production (deceptive relative to how often he set up potential scores on a team that struggled to finish shots), and slight frame that needs added strength are areas that impacted what was once a top-5-draft-pick projection. 

His ability to play the 1 and 2 at the next level adds lottery-worthy value, as does his array of go-to moves with quick-twitch change-of-pace counter craft that works at all three levels, and combined with a spot-up game both in half-court and in transition it gives him a great chance to play a meaningful role as a rookie in ’23-24. The wider driving lanes and greater floor-spacing in the NBA could be a perfect playground for Smith as he gets stronger and adapts to the speed of the pro game. Best current NBA comparison: Brad Beal, 6-4 shooting guard, Phoenix Suns via recent trade from Washington Wizards.

Smith missed more than half of his freshman season as a Razorback, playing in 17 games (and missing 19) with 12 of those coming after a two-month absence in the middle of the season. A two-time SEC Freshman of the Week honoree, Smith averaged 12.5 points, 1.7 assists, and 1.6 assists in 25.8 minutes per game while shooting 37.6% from the field, including 33.8% from 3, and 74.0% from the free throw line.

He scored 20 or more points five times, including his career-high 26 points in a home win over Georgia. Smith also had game-saving performances in wins over Auburn in the SECT (he hit the game-winning shot and finished with 14 points) and North Carolina-Greensboro (team-high 22 points), and his 21-point effort was key in the Hogs’ revenge-win over Oklahoma in December in Tulsa. He had a game-high 24 points to go with 6 rebounds and 2 steals in an 86-83 road loss to then-No. 2 Alabama; and he had a team-high 25 points to go with 6 assists, 4 steals, and 3 rebounds in the team’s 88-79 home loss to then-No. 23 Kentucky.

The top-rated incoming college freshman and a consensus Top 10 lottery pick by 2023 mock drafts before he played his first game as a Hog, Smith was in and out of the lineup due to the knee issue and never quite got into a rhythm or groove as he was effectively working through mid-season form once the team advanced to the postseason.

(Last updated: 2023-06-22 21:11 PM)