#21: Nolan Smith
With the 21st pick in the 2011 NBA Draft the Portland Trail Blazers chose guard Nolan Smith from Duke University. Originally Duke’s shooting guard, when top overall pick Kyrie Irving went down with his foot injury early in the season Smith moved over to point guard and averaged 20.6 points, 5.1 assists, 4.5 rebounds, and 1.2 steals per game in leading Duke to the ACC championship.
Smith is a very good fit in Portland. While the team decides whether or not to trade starting point guard Andre Miller to the Denver Nuggets for Raymond Felton (and they did!), whether they do or not Smith can step into the reserve point guard position with ease. Portland needs a point guard Coach Nate McMillan can trust to make good decisions and hit outside shots, both things Smith can do.
This position, reserve point guard, has been an issue for a few years. Last season rookie Armon Johnson started off the season in the position but tailed off, which allowed sophomore Patty Mills a chance to play. Johnson is under contract for next year, but Mills will be a free agent and neither really seemed to gain McMillan’s trust. They also have last year’s first-round pick, Elliot Williams, who missed the season with injury but can play both guard spots.
The Rudy Fernandez reportedly going to Dallas (not just reportedly now), Smith will get plenty of run in Portland. His championship experience will likely gain McMillan’s trust pretty quickly. He’s not a sexy pick for the Portland fan base, but he will be solid and could develop into a long-term answer at the point position.