Carter-Williams and Smart emerge as the top 2013 PG Prospects

One thing I’ve written about extensively is the importance of posting a high RSB40 for guard prospects. That’s combined rebounds, steals and blocks per 40 minutes. My rule is any college PG who posts an RSB40 over 7.0 while also showing an ability to pass and score efficiently is a solid NBA prospect. Any college PG who posts a RSB40 under 6.0 will usually struggle in the NBA, regardless of his other numbers. Had the Timberwolves followed this rule, they wouldn’t have drafted Jonny Flynn in 2009 when Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, Jrue Holiday and Ty Lawson were all still on the board. I have made a few tweaks to that rule over the years, the most important being that the steals portion of the number must be over 1.4 and preferably much higher. But in general this has been a pretty safe, simple rule for evaluating guard prospects.

Taken further, PG prospects who post a RSB40 over 9.0 and show an ability to pass and score efficiently are potential NBA superstars. To explain it without the numbers, any college PG who can rebound and block shots on a par of most college forwards is flashing the type of dominant athleticism and ability that translates very well to the NBA. It’s important to score and pass well in addition to posting a high RSB40. Prospects that do all 3 effectively are potential NBA stars.

Because of this, 2 college PGs have caught my eye early in the 2013 season. Both sophomore Michael Carter-Williams of Syracuse and freshman Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State are showing early signs of NBA-level athleticism. Here are their numbers through Wednesday:









Marcus Smart








Michael Carter-Williams








Both these guys look like very good prospects right now. Smart has logged 173 minutes so far, Carter-Williams 124. While it is early, it is very impressive that both players have a 12+ RSB40 while still posting decent scoring and solid passing numbers. The only freshmen PGs to average a double figure RSB40 with 6+ A40 were Jason Kidd and Penny Hardaway. The only sophomores were Kidd, Hardaway, Rajon Rondo and Erik Murdock. Murdock wasn’t the all-star the other 3 were, but was a serviceable NBA PG who finished top 10 in assists twice and steals 3 times. If both players maintain this pace for the season, they’ll find themselves in pretty fast company.

It’s definitely too early to declare Carter-Williams and Smart as the 2nd and 3rd coming of Jason Kidd. But their histories before this year suggest both should continue to post an excellent RSB40. As a freshman playing behind a loaded, veteran backcourt Carter-Williams logged 269 minutes with a 9.7 RSB40, high assists and shaky, but not terrible scoring. That’s pretty much what he’s been as the starter this year. Smart’s only history coming in was 20 minutes in one HS all-star game where he grabbed 5 boards and blocked a shot. HS all-star games aren’t the best place to evaluate prospects. But the fact that Smart flashed similar ability to what he has shown so far at OK State suggests this is his real level of ability. In addition both bring good NBA size to the PG position, Carter-Williams is 6’5”, Smart is 6’4”.

The only question with both players is whether they can improve their offense enough to go from dominant athlete to dominant player. It won’t be an easy jump, but I’m optimistic both can get there. The main reason is offensive skills have historically been much easier to develop than defensive skills. Another reason to be optimistic is the only place both players come up real short so far is 3-point shooting. That’s the easiest skill for any prospect to develop.

Either way, Smart and Carter-Williams have established themselves as the nation’s top 2 PG prospects in the early going. No other freshman PG has stepped in and performed even close to the level Smart has. Of the returning PGs, Aaron Craft has struggled so far with an increased offensive load. Lorenzo Brown continues to struggle with offense and Trey Burke just doesn’t have the defensive numbers to consider him a top prospect. Seniors Pierre Jackson and Nate Wolters are off to good starts, but still look like NBA role players at best. Ryan Harrow can’t seem to get on the court.

Did I mention that it’s still very early in the season? I think I did and that’s an important thing to keep in mind when evaluating the play of any prospect in November. Both Smart and Carter-Williams could go either way at this point. A December shooting slump could bury any player and historically erratic scorers like Carter-Williams are especially prone to such sorry streaks. That’s why I generally wait until January to make an official top 60 prospect list. But early on both Marcus Smart and Michael Carter-Williams have put themselves on the map as players to watch.

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