With the Knicks falling back to eighth in next month’s NBA draft, dynamic if disappointing N.C. State point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has landed squarely in their crosshairs.
However, his college coach, Mark Gottfried, told The Post he doubts Smith will be there at No. 8. Gottfried touted Smith’s “Russell athleticism’’ and charged his guy has been undervalued in mock drafts, blamed too heavily for the Wolfpack’s anemic 15-17 season.
In fact, Gottfried said Smith should be in the same conversation as Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, point guards expected to go first and second in the draft.
Gottfried, let go after going 4-14 in the ACC, is mystified as to why Smith is blamed for being on underachieving teams, but Fultz (who led Washington to a 9-22 season) and last June’s No. 1 pick Ben Simmons (who led LSU to a 19-14 mark) get a free pass.
MSG Network’s/CBS college analyst Wally Szczerbiak told The Post recently: “If he’s supposed to be that good and talented, how could you not have the team be a little better?”
Gottfried, who attended last week’s NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, said in a phone interview Wednesday that Smith’s mock-draft ranking is inaccurate.
“I’ve learned the actual NBA front offices and coaches I’ve talked to, they don’t necessarily buy the pecking order that’s out there right now,’’ Gottfried said. “If enough people say two guys are going 1-2, everybody believes those guys will go 1-2. It’s like telephone when you’re little, passing it from one person to the next.
“Those guys [Ball and Fultz] are good players. Very, very good. But I think Dennis Smith has Russell Westbrook-type athleticism and is that type of competitor. All he needs is time to learn the next level of basketball.”
The Knicks are intrigued by the 6-foot-3, 195-pound guard, but also are concerned about his basketball IQ, defense, his fit in the triangle offense and an ACL tear suffered in high school. Knicks president Phil Jackson also issued an odd remark last month, saying the Knicks weren’t looking for players in the draft who “can jump out of the gym and do a triple-double game.’’
Smith became the first player in ACC history to post two triple-doubles against conference foes on the way to ACC Freshman of the Year honors. He led all ACC freshmen in scoring (18.1), led the league in assists (6.2) and ranked second in steals (1.9) but was panned for lacking on-floor leadership and for having bad body language.
Most projections have Smith at No. 8 or worse.
“I don’t think so,’’ Gottfried said when asked if he’ll be around for the Knicks. “I’ve talked to a number of clubs. Obviously draft night is unpredictable. A lot will be learned in the next three weeks, when teams bring players for workouts. There’s still a lot to be done. But from early conversations I’ve had, I’d be surprised he’s there at eight.”
Gottfried’s defense of Smith is he didn’t have enough around him to succeed, while Ball’s UCLA club was stacked. Gottfried also said the ACC was stronger than the Pac-12, where Ball and Fultz played.
“Dennis walks into a situation where we have a starting forward out for the year with injury [Lennard Freeman], young and inexperienced players all around him,’’ Gottfried said. “He had a completely different situation than some of the other players. [The losing] ended up hurting Dennis. I think that’s unfair. Certainly it had nothing to do with Dennis.”
Regarding Ball’s situation, Gottfried added, “I think Lonzo is a great player. In defending Dennis, Ball steps into a college situation with Bryce Alford a senior, Isaac Hamilton a senior, [Thomas] Welsh is good. [TJ] Leaf is a projected lottery pick. The big kid inside [Gyorgy Goloman] is experienced. When UCLA wins, everybody attributes it to Lonzo. He’s a great player, but had a different supporting cast.”
Ball has also been hailed for his athleticism, but Gottfried won’t give him the edge on Smith.
“[Smith will] be one of the premier guards in a few years in the league,’’ Gottfried said. “His athleticism is better than anybody’s in the draft. And he’s that type of athlete after tearing an ACL.’’
Perhaps the ACL issue has hurt his stock, with Gottfried remembering he was once talked about as a future No. 1 pick before the injury. Smith tore up his knee in August 2015 and missed his senior season in high school. His former coach tried to sell the knee injury as an added bonus.
“Give him a year or two more, I’ve had players in the past with a torn ACL, and it takes a year and a half to gain confidence, get your game back right,’’ Gottfried said. “He came back after 11 months and was as good as any guard in the country. In time, when that [issue] gets fully behind him, then there’s no telling how good he could be.
“We don’t know if [Fultz and Ball] would’ve torn an ACL in August of their high school senior year and turned around as a freshman and averaged 18, six assists and five rebounds.”
Smith was hardly a media darling on Tobacco Road and stopped talking to the press between games and sometimes after games.
“He wanted to put our team on his shoulders,’’ Gottfried said. “It wasn’t a realistic thing for him to do. He got frustrated and bothered by it. That’s because of how competitive he is.”
Carson Wentz, right, who missed the entire postseason for the Eagles with a torn ACL, says it was a challenge…
You need to plan for it, Packers president Mark Murphy told ESPN.com last week during an interview about the team's…
This may be a matchup of teams with an identical 2-1 record, but that wholesale Los Angeles Rams jerseys doesn't…
Titans coach Mike Mularkey told reporters cornerback?LeShaun Sims (groin) missed practice, while tackle Taylor Lewan (ankle) was limited. It ruined…
Yea, we call that @eatfusian in Ohio.... about nike nfl jerseys sizes 7 years too late.... Martindale acknowledged that he…