2020 NBA Draft Talk: Stef Smith?

The Vermont Junior Guard Declares for 2020 NBA Draft

On Monday April 20th, Vermont guard Stef Smith officially announced his intentions to forgo his senior season and enter the 2020 NBA draft. The move has been deemed expected/unexpected depending on who you ask, but still somewhat surprising considering the current uncertainty in the sports landscape. 

Smith’s game continued to progress and develop well throughout his junior campaign. With averages of 14.2 ppg, 2.6 apg and 2.8 rpg, Smith was able to crack the America East All-Conference first-team honors and instantly became the much needed Robin to Anthony Lamb’s Batman. Overall, it was another fruitful season for Smith and the rest of the Catamounts, as they all but swept the America East conference awards on their way to another AE league title.

Is Stef Smith Good Enough for the NBA?

Short answer, no. Anthony Lamb is a three two-time America East Player of the Year and is viewed as a fringe NBA prospect. No disrespect to Smith, but he’s not even close to a player of Anthony Lamb’s caliber. With that being said, I would still love to see both Lamb and Smith drafted by the Boston Celtics as they help the historic franchise lift banner #18 into the rafters. I’d give that a .000001% chance of happening, but a guy can dream right? Snapping back to reality, Smith has become a very well-rounded guard who has had a successful college career up to this point, but his NBA chances this year – or even in 2021 are paper thin at best.

Smith isn’t the only UVM junior to declare for the NBA draft in recent years. As you might recall, both Lamb and former Catamount great Trae Bell-Haynes declared for the draft after their junior seasons, before both ultimately returned to the Cats to cap off their senior season in the green and gold. In the past, it was a rule that once you declared your intentions for the draft, you could not return to school.

However, this rule has been altered more recently to allow players such Smith, Lamb and Bell-Haynes to attend camps, converse with scouts and gain exposure before eventually withdrawing their names and returning back to school. The one caveat is that any player that forgoes their remaining years of eligibility, but still wants the option to withdraw before the draft deadline must not hire an agent, which Smith has already announced he will not be doing, meaning in all likelihood we’ll be seeing Smith back in Burlington come winter.

Does Declaring Make Sense?

If this were any other year I would be leaning towards saying yes. Since the NBA updated their draft rules for collegiate players, it’s become a fantastic way for fringe prospects to rub elbows with NBA scouts and coaches while soaking up valuable critique on their game. After withdrawing and returning to school, players can then spend the following year building out parts of their game that those NBA big wigs are ultimately searching for in their evaluations.

Nonetheless, this year is a little different than most. Addressing the elephant in the room (Covid-19), there is going to be plenty of hesitancy and doubt surrounding these type of draft camps, player workouts and even the NBA draft itself moving forward. I completely understand why Smith made the choice to test the draft waters, but in a year of uncertainty and social distancing, it seems somewhat redundant of a move. In lieu of the global pandemic, scouts and coaches are going to be much more selective with which players they workout and most likely won’t spend much if any time with a player of Smith’s caliber. But braided-haired Smith on the other hand…

I have the utmost respect for Smith as a player, leader and role-model both on and off the court. He’s a very good mid-major college player, who has had tremendous success during his time at Vermont and should be in-line for another great year come winter. While I don’t believe Smith has the athletic ability to compete in the NBA, he should, like many other Catamounts before him, be able to carve out a nice career overseas should he choose to go that route. 

*Side note – I can’t help but wonder if the timing had anything to do with the announcement? Maybe Smith was feeling cooped up in his apartment and decided to take a stroll through Redstone campus yesterday afternoon, only to come back home feeling a little dazed and confused before promptly throwing his name in the 2020 draft ring.

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