Posted: 12:00 p.m. Friday, April 5, 2013
By Matt Brown
Last season, Lenzelle Smith Jr. was a legitimate 'glue' guy that did a little bit of everything to help make the team go, channeling maybe a few shades of David Lighty in the process. This year, Lenzelle was asked to do a little bit more, with mixed results.
9.2 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 1.5 APG, 27.4 MPG, .374 3P%
Best Games: With Deshaun Thomas struggling a little and the rest of the team sluggish offensively, Lenzelle caught fire from downtown, hitting 7 three pointers en route to a 24 point, 6 rebound and 3 steal performance to seal a 63-53 win over Northwestern. Smith Jr. was also a perfect 6-6 from the floor to secure a 21 point showing in a 63-56 win over Nebraska.
Worst Games: Lenzelle didn't do himself any favors in an early season loss to Kansas, shooting 3-13 and missing all 7 of his three pointers AND committing four fouls. His shot also began to fade right as the team hit their big end of season winning streak. Over the last five regular season games, Smith never scored more than 10 points and shot a combined 11-36 from the floor. Not a great look.
The Skinny: The good news about Lenzelle is that even when his shot wasn't falling, he often found other ways to contribute. His two double-digit rebounding games happened when he scored a combined 6 points, and his strong perimeter defense was been a constant throughout the year. He also continued his run of being one of the best three point shooters on the team, albeit a kind of streaky one. When Lenzelle was on, or L3NZ3LL3 as Twitter might affectionately call him, the Buckeye's offense was dynamic, well spaced, and tough to stop. At times, Lenzelle was very much the second scoring option that the Buckeyes desperately needed to flank Thomas.
The trouble, of course, is the key phrase: "at times". That 24 point explosion against Northwestern was flanked by 5 point showings. When his three pointer wasn't falling, Lenzelle struggled to get his offense going, and had to fight the inclination to force the issue. Perhaps most troubling is that Smith ended his season on a decidedly downward offensive trend. After the loss at Wisconsin, Lenzelle would only crack double digits in scoring twice the rest of the regular season, the aforementioned explosion against Northwestern, and a modest 10 point showing against Illinois, while a little bit more of his minutes began to go to Scott.
When he's good, Smith is very good. When he's "bad", he's still very good at a lot of things, just not scoring, which was unfortunately a rather redundant skill set, given the rest of his roster.
The Prognosis: Lenzelle Smith Jr is an interesting case among the Buckeye wings. Of the entire group (Sam Thompson, LaQuinton Ross, Shannon Scott, ADV, even Kameron Williams), Smith probably has the highest floor. He's the closest of that group to being a consistent and productive college level player. He makes the fewest glaring defensive mistakes, was the second leading rebounder on the team, and has a few developed skills.
I also think he has the lowest ceiling of any of the other guys. Lenzelle might just be what he is at this point. With some modest improvements, Lenzelle is somebody who can hit an open corner three, swing the ball around, and give you 10 and 5 over a season. That's not a bad player to have. If that's your 3rd or 4th offensive option, you could still be a very good team. If he's your second, you'll struggle some nights. I'd be surprised if Smith totally re-invented himself to be a proper second banana, or even first banana next season. But he'll still be a valuable and important member, even if he continues to produce at a similar level next year at around the 25 MPG mark.