Indisputably, Nick Smith Jr.’s Summer League performances were impressive, especially considering he’s a rookie who missed considerable playing time as an Arkansas Razorback due to a knee injury and cautious management of it to prepare for the 2023 NBA Draft. The former Arkansas Razorback guard proved he can supply the Charlotte Hornets with explosive scoring, formidable ball handling, and tenacious defense. Smith Jr.’s performances were even more impressive than Victor Wembanyama’s, the heralded first pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.
I have argued that the Charlotte Hornets won the 2023 NBA Draft by selecting Brandon Miller and Nick Smith Jr. in the first round. These two players could have easily gone first and second in the 2023 NBA Draft if Wembanyama was not in the Draft and Smith Jr. had not experienced the knee injury. When one looks at both players’ Summer League performances in their totality, although not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, they played quality basketball, giving the Hornets much-needed hope to be genuine playoff contenders, especially when they are on the court with LaMelo Ball. LaMelo Ball is ready for action and has a deserved massive contract extension to provide him even more motivation to excel.
Nick Smith Jr.’s Summer League Performances
Overall, the Charlotte Hornets did not perform well in the 2023 NBA Summer League, finishing with an uninspiring 1-4 record. Nick Smith Jr. participated in four games and averaged 15 points, four rebounds, three assists, and 26.3 minutes. His performance was essentially equal to Brandon Miller’s: Miller averaged 17.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 30.5 minutes.
Smith Jr. was productive throughout the NBA Summer League. Even during his debut, he played well, scoring 12 points—only Brandon Miller had more points: 18.
However, he had his most impressive game against the Portland Trail Blazers, contributing 33 points, making 4-of-5 three-point shots, and going 9-of-15 overall.
Although Brandon Miller has received much more attention than Nick Smith Jr., Smith Jr. is poised to prove he is worthy of equal attention. Also, when a player has been coached by Eric Musselman, the head coach of the Arkansas Razorbacks, one can expect to see him hustle the entire time he is on the floor. Even when Smith Jr. dribbles, he is intense. The Hornets will benefit tremendously from his energy.