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Missouri Hoops Player Review: Mitchell Smith

The sophomore power forward saw his minutes dwindle, but still found a way to contribute down the stretch.

NCAA Basketball: SEC Conference Tournament-Missoiuri vs Georgia Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

We’re continuing our postseason player reviews today by moving on from the freshmen and beginning a look at this year’s sophomore class.

After sitting out a year for injury (and redshirt) purposes, forward Mitchell Smith returned to the Tigers roster for the first time since the Kim Anderson era. Smith didn’t get much playing time, but was able to carve out a small role for himself off the bench, making some big shots down the stretch.

To catch up with the rest of our player reviews, see the links below:

Mitchell Smith - Regular Stats

31 11.7 2.5 2.5 0.5 47.2 41.7 66.7

Mitchell Smith - Advanced Stats*

%MIN ORTG Adj GMSC POSS% Lineup O +/- Lineup D +/- eFG% TS%
%MIN ORTG Adj GMSC POSS% Lineup O +/- Lineup D +/- eFG% TS%
28.1 100.7 3.1 13.9 0.97 (-.06) 1.07 (-1.0) 47.2 55.7

Smith scrapped for playing time, earning some extra playing time toward the end of the season. What did you see from him that’s cause for hope?

Sam Snelling, Site Manager: I’m honestly not sure there’s a whole lot of positives you can take from Mitchell’s rather rocky season. I like his ability to shoot the ball and when engaged he’s a decent rebounder. But man, he gets crushed defensively and doesn’t seem to be able to hold his ground in the middle on that end. The good news is I’m not sure Missouri needs him to be much more than he is. If Mitch can provide the kind of minutes and effort he did this past season that might be enough. He seemed to fit well in a backup role and seems to be really bought in to the program and that’s not necessarily a bad guy to have around.

I don’t want this to sound condescending on Mitchell at all because I do think he has value, and I can very much envision him in that role over the next few years. His spot-up shooting is something that can provide an offensive spark at times and can help keep the floor spread while he’s out there. His teammates seem to really enjoy being around him, and overall I think he’s a “program guy” who is good to keep around to keep the energy up on the bench and play hard when given the opportunity.

Matt Harris, Basketball Editor: Looking back, Smith’s season sums up the sinkhole that opened at combo forward after Jontay Porter went down. No matter who Missouri used to fill in the minutes, the bottom kept dropping out. Early in SEC action, Cuonzo Martin swapped in K.J. Santos and tried a small-ball pairing with Kevin Puryear. Obviously, it did not go well. And by season’s end, he circled back to Smith, who attempted to provide a presence on the glass and space the floor with perimeter shooting.

Mitchell’s jumper is intriguing, but the rest of his arsenal isn’t as well-stocked. Watching him put the ball on the floor he’s very much transitioning to a role on the perimeter. Defensively, he struggled. That’s putting it generously. Playing in space and with responsibilities to close down shooters didn’t go well. We’ll just leave it there.

But I’ll echo Sam: Smith is a program guy. His yoyoing minutes and role didn’t leave him disgruntled. When he does get run, Smith’s effort isn’t an open question. And I think it’s important to have that type of influence around a locker room. Having a player who’s continuously engaged in practice, digesting a scouting report and bringing energy matters to a program that’s trying to overhaul its culture.

I can’t entirely quantify Smith’s impact, but building a roster filled with even-keeled and supportive guys isn’t the worst idea in the world.

Josh Matejka, Editor: Smith has always been a nice energy guy given that he’s athletic, a decent rebounder and an above-average shooter. If you’re hoping for more from him, I’d exercise caution, though it’s always nice having guys like him coming off the bench. Smith still probably a little more room to grow into his body, and could also potentially add some depth down low as opposed to his current role as a supersized combo forward.

What would you like to see Smith work on during the offseason?

Sam Snelling: I mentioned above he got crushed defensively so perhaps some of that. He’s put in a lot of work in the weight room, and he’s only a little heavier than he was so I’d think you can’t expect him to pack on another 20 lbs. But maxing out his natural body strength is going to help him better fit into that role off the bench.

Matt Harris: Can he scale up his shooting? Yeah, Smith connected on 39 percent of 3-pointers taken in the half court — on just 23 attempts. Look, I’m not advocating for a massive uptick in shot volume, but playing combo forward in MU’s offense means commanding respect from defenses when playing in the slot or at the top of the key. Smith wasn’t efficient shooting spot-up jumpers (23.1 percent), but he did show glimmers of promise operating in pick-and-pops. Finding consistency from the outside can make him a better schematic fit when on the floor.

At the other end, you can see the allure of transitioning Smith away from the post in that you get length and, ideally, switching ability. However, Smith must improve his ability playing off the ball, especially when on the weak side of the floor. He allowed 56.5 percent shooting on catch-and-shoot jumpers, and in rushing to close out, would give up driving angles that put pressure on MU’s back line to rotate. We’ll see how much his struggles owe to a positional switch and returning from a long layoff.

Josh Matejka: This is complicated because there are two different questions contained in one. What I think he most needs to work on? As Sam pointed out, he’s not strong defensively, and you would think he’d be a decent flex defender with his size and athleticism. Under Cuonzo Martin, you’d think the potential is there to be a decent defensive option off the bench.

However, I’d also love to see him keep perfecting that three-ball. Smith is already hit 38 percent from deep this year, and that creates a potentially problematic offensive weapon for Martin to have at his disposal. If Smith can be a legitimate threat every time he’s beyond the arc, he’s creating several mismatches and inefficiencies for Missouri to exploit.

*Advanced Stats explainer:

%MIN — The number of minutes played in comparison to the total number of minutes available to be played. E.g. 30 minutes played in a 40 minute game would be 75%

ORtg — Individual offensive rating or points scored based upon a player accounting for the ending of 100 possessions (through shot attempts not offensive rebounded, assists, turnovers). This number comes from KenPom and it weighted to adjust for pace and opponent.

Adj GmSc — Adjusted GameScore, from Study Hall the accumulation of the players game score throughout the season

Poss% — Also referred to as Usage, it’s the number of possessions a player ends (via shot attempts not offensive rebounded, assists, turnovers) while on the court.

Lineup O/D +/- — This is the offensive and defensive points per possession when the player is on the court, the parenthesis reflects if lineups were better or worse with them on the floor (+ is if lineups were better with them on the floor, - is if lineups were worse)

eFG% — Effective Field Goal Percentage Adjusts shooting percentage for three point attempts. The formula is FGM + (.5 x 3PM) / FGA

TS% — True Shooting Percentage adjusts for both shooting percentage divided by total points scored. Traditionally the formula is (Points / 2 x (FGA + (0.44 x FTA)) x 100. We used KenPomeroy’s FT modifier of 0.475 instead of the NBA modifier of 0.44.