The first eight Georgetown Hoyas player profiles in this series have been mostly speculation. How will highly touted incoming recruits adjust to the speed and strength of the college game? Will returning role players and bench warmers contribute more this season? Some of these younger players will exceed expectations in the season to come, while others are likely to disappoint and fade to the margins of the rotation.
Even the remaining players to be profiled have resumes that raise significant questions. Can Joshua Smith stay on the court, in good enough shape, to be the offensive force we've seen only in passing? Will Aaron Bowen ever be consistent enough to be more than highlight-reel fodder? Will Jabril Trawick's outside shooting continue to improve, and is he dynamic enough with the ball to pick up some of the offensive slack left by Markel Starks's departure? Can Mikael Hopkins stay in his lane, working for rebounds and opportunities near the basket on both ends of the floor?
The one sure thing on this team appears to be junior guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera. Over the past two seasons, DSR has risen from bench sparkplug to leading scorer to, this season, offensive hub. Will that ascent, both steady and impressive, continue this season, as he enters the season in a leading role?
Last season's statistics: 17.6 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.7 apg, 1.2 stl pg, 39.3 3FG%
Coming into last season, Smith-Rivera was an exciting volume scorer who was still developing the rest of his game. As a freshman, DSR thrived with increased playing time after Greg Whittington's suspension, averaging double figures in conference play, learning the ropes defensively, and setting the stage for a big leap in his sophomore year.
Smith-Rivera met those high expectations, assuming much of the offensive burden with Otto Porter off to the NBA, Whittington again absent, and Smith suspended academically. Despite being, along with Markel Starks, the focus of opposing defenses, Smith-Rivera improved in nearly every aspect of his game from his first season. He nearly doubled his scoring average, evolving into a very accurate three-point shooter, getting to the line more often, and becoming nearly automatic once he was at the charity stripe. DSR also improved as a lead guard, upping his assist rate while lowering his turnover rate. Finally, Smith-Rivera continued to crash the boards at an elite level for a guard, using his broad frame to create space to clean the defensive boards.
Most importantly for a team with few offensive options, Smith-Rivera became steadier. As a freshman, DSR was occasionally thrilling, like when he made 6 three-pointers in his first official game, or when he dropped 33 on DePaul. But he also was conspicuously absent on occasion, most frustratingly notching just 9 points in a combined 62 minutes in a Big East Tournament loss to Syracuse and the Florida Gulf Coast embarrassment.
As a sophomore, Smith-Rivera could still light it up (31 points against St. John's; 25+ in consecutive wins over Kansas State and VCU in Puerto Rico) but also was more consistent, notching double figures in 29 of 33 games. He still sometimes buried threes in bunches, but also found plenty of ways to score when the outside shot wasn't open or going in. Smith-Rivera used a unique blend of dribbles, fakes, and spins to get into the lane, draw fouls, and open up opportunities for himself and, increasingly, his teammates. While Starks's proud performance in an increasingly grim senior season was admirable, Smith-Rivera's blossoming game in the face of adversity gave hope for the seasons ahead.
In Kenner League, Smith-Rivera hinted that he would continue to evolve toward a point guard role. DSR averaged nearly 6 assists per summer league game, sometimes forsaking his own shot to look for teammates instead. Even so, Smith-Rivera continued to get buckets, tallying nearly 21 points per game, second among Hoyas to summer sensation LJ Peak.
It's no secret that much of the Georgetown offense will revolve around Smith-Rivera. He's the Big East Preseason Player of the Year, and deservedly so. He is the team's leading returning scorer, Georgetown's best bucket-getter since Austin Freeman (and that order may change soon), and likely will be the lead guard on day one. The success of his junior season depends at least as much on the development of his teammates (both in initiating offense to create opportunities for DSR, and in finishing plays Smith-Rivera starts) as it does on the performance of Smith-Rivera himself.
Still, it's reasonable to expect similar point totals to last season, perhaps slightly diminished by sharing the wealth with a returning Smith and talented incoming freshman class. Smith-Rivera seems on the same lead guard curve as Starks, whose assist totals increased in each of his four seasons.
DSR probably will continue to be a mixed bag on defense. On the whole, he's become far more attentive and engaged than in his first days as a Hoya. He should be able to patrol for rebounds as in previous seasons, firming up a unit that sometimes struggled on the defensive glass last season. He's also opportunistic in forcing turnovers, occasionally digging out loose balls from the post or jumping passing lanes. But he's still not very quick and not very long, making him prone to getting burned off the dribble.
Smith-Rivera continues to build on his breakout sophomore campaign. He becomes an ever more efficient shooter, topping 40 percent from three, getting into the lane with ease, again leading the conference in free-throw percentage, and becoming the first Hoya of the JT3 era to eclipse 18 points per game. He also evolves into an efficient distributor, setting the freshmen up for easy looks in transition and feeding Smith in the post. DSR holds his own on defense and continues to rack up boards. Georgetown wins the Big East and Smith-Rivera earns player of the year honors.
Not enough of the other pieces fall into place: Smith gets injured or can't stay on the court for long stretches, the freshmen aren't totally ready, and Trawick's jumper falls off. Tre Campbell, Trawick, and Peak don't provide much relief on the ball, saddling DSR with the bulk of the scoring and distributing duties. Smith-Rivera becomes a one-man scoring force, hurting both his efficiency and Georgetown's fortunes in the process. While the box score shows impressive raw numbers, the eye test shows DSR gunning because there aren't enough other options to score.