Ok so Russ Smith is returning to Louisville. Big deal. Sure he was the best perimeter defender and leading scorer at 18.7 PPG but what they’re gaining with him coming back doesn’t negate losing Gorge Dieng and Peyton Siva’s loss. As much as UK fans love to give Siva the business, and deservedly so, but Siva was the motor that drove that engine and Dieng was the eraser of mistakes while providing a little offense and incredible defense. No I’m not saying Louisville is Kentucky Northwest but they had some similarities to the 2012 National Championship team and Jeff Goodman seems to think that the return of Russ Smith makes the Cardinals a legit Final Four team again. I remind you that he is a member of the same group that ranked this season’s NIT team in Lexington at #3 in the country so I don’t value his opinion greatly. Nevertheless, I give you what his logic.
Smith was considered by most NBA executives as a second-round pick, and could improve his draft stock next year with improved decision-making.
“The pros of staying were so much better than the pros of leaving,” he said. “What was crazy, the pros for me leaving were very immature. You have to put the work in to get better, you have to do this and you have do that, those are all challenges and we both felt I’d be running away from getting better and maturing as a player if I just left. I have new goals and new challenges, and I’ll reach them.”
His return makes Rick Pitino’s team a legitimate contender to win back-to-back national championships. The Cardinals also return Chane Behanan, Luke Hancock, Wayne Blackshear and Montrezl Harrell — and will add talented junior college point guard Chris Jones.
“I love to win,” Smith said. “With the group we have coming back, I want to go out as a winner, as well as to get my degree.”
The Brooklyn native took his game to another level in the NCAA tournament, totaling 134 points in six games. Smith was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Midwest region, and could be an early favorite for All-American honors in 2013-14.
While on paper it looks like rich Pitino has a chance to repeat as National Champion, something he’s never done BTW, the absence of Siva and Dieng cannot be overstated. Siva’s decisions were occasionally questionable but typically solid. Dieng, again, was that presence in the post that is always necessary to win a Title and they don’t have a C worth a damn now. Sure they have some beastly forwards in Behanan and Blackshear coming back but a Forward isn’t a C and Behanan didn’t patrol the post like Dieng.
As for Russ Smith’s options in the draft, as Goodman says he was a second round pick and it corroborates what I read on Twitter at one point where the question was posed, “who wants a 6’0″ SG who doesn’t pass?” Answer: No one.
As much as I think his decision to skip the draft was a poor one, shocker, he claims winning is more important to him than the NBA.
That’s ironic since a second round pick isn’t likely to get drafted by a terrible team. Those teams are reserved for the lottery, which he was NEVER projected to be a part of.
Does his decision to come back help Rick Pitino and the Louisville Cardinals? Absolutely.
Is it enough to put them in consideration for back-to-back National Championships?
Get a grip. They are going to be good but the “flash in the pan” Hancock isn’t going to stand out so Louisville fans need to take a step back and just enjoy their 2013 National Championship. It’ll be their last for another 20+ years.