D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera's decision to return to Georgetown for his senior year ranks somewhere between surprising and stunning, coming just one week after the school announced his intention to enter the NBA Draft and hire an agent. So what does it all mean? Let's get to it.
1. Georgetown could be really, really good next year
During the week when Smith-Rivera appeared to be pursuing his professional prospects, the college basketball season concluded with Monday's national championship. The end of one season leads fans and pundits naturally to look forward to the next, and what better
clickbait way to do so than by putting together a 2015-16 preseason ranking? Those rankings, full of disclaimers about how some players who appear to be returning might still go, and vice versa, generally did not include your Georgetown Hoyas. Bracketologist Joe Lunardi forecast that Georgetown would make next year's tournament, but as a 9 seed.
Those projections were reasonable. Without DSR, the returning Hoyas would have accounted for barely a third of last season's scoring and just 2 out of every 5 minutes of playing time. Those figures would have been the lowest, by far, of the JT3 era. Just as importantly, Georgetown would have lost the one player on last season's roster that could consistently get a good shot for himself. The two returning upperclassmen barely scratched last season's rosters, and the talented youngsters all held nearly as many questions as promise.
DSR's return changes all of that. Now, Georgetown gets back a first-team All-Big East guard as well as a promising crop of sophomores-to-be and incoming freshmen. Smith-Rivera has been the Hoyas' leading scorer and best outside shooter for two years running, and also became their leading distributor this past year. He also was Georgetown's most consistent player as a junior, scoring in double figures in 9 straight games and 18 of 19 to end the season. That consistency will be invaluable next season, when Georgetown loses five seniors (counting Tyler Adams) and will have no other upperclassmen with significant experience. Instead, Georgetown will be relying on big improvement from the youngins, who are talented and look ready to take a step up next year. But even sophomores who make the leap and freshmen who are ready to go from the jump aren't always steady, reliable producers.
With Smith-Rivera's veteran hand on the rudder, Georgetown figures to be a top-15 team (perhaps even top-10) that has a realistic chance at the Big East title and the second weekend of the NCAA tournament. The sophomores will develop at a comfortable pace but won't be thrust into headlining roles. The Big East was shaping up to be another year of Villanova and everyone else, and the Hoyas with DSR look ready to challenge the Wildcats. Nationally, the bottom end of the projected top 10 is full of teams that will have to replace stars or huge chunks of their rotation, no better or worse than Georgetown. That could mean a 3 seed, a prime jumping off point for the delusion train (or deep, deep cynicism).
More broadly, Smith-Rivera's return means that he won't become the latest what-if guy. Jeff Green, DaJuan Summers, Greg Monroe, Hollis Thompson, and Otto Porter all left Georgetown early to pursue the NBA. All made it to the league, but it was hard as Hoyas fans not to contemplate how great Georgetown would have been had they returned for one more year. Smith-Rivera briefly appeared to be the latest iteration of that curse. Instead, we'll get to see everything next year's Hoyas could, and can, do.
2. The Hoyas still need guards next year and afterward
Our (week-)long nightmare is over. With Smith-Rivera apparently gone, Tre Campbell appeared to be the only option to lead the Georgetown offense next year. Even Tre's strongest advocates would concede that a one-man rotation is no rotation at all. This appeared to be the nadir of a guard shortage that stretches back to the graduation Chris Wright and Austin Freeman in 2011.
Smith-Rivera's return bolsters Georgetown's guard depth from "catastrophic" to "shallow." With Jabril Trawick graduating and no guards coming in, the Hoyas still could really use another guard, especially one that can shoot from beyond the arc. Campbell and Peak could well eat up many of Trawick's minutes, particularly in the absence of competition, but Georgetown is still just an injury away from disaster.
So how can the Hoyas get anyone for next season? The two available routes are graduate transfers (who are eligible immediately) and freshmen-to-be. The graduate transfer market has a few promising options, including South Florida point guard Anthony Collins, who reportedly has cut his list to Georgetown, Tennessee, and Baylor. Collins is a better distributor and defender than a scorer and would be a solid one-year contributor to the Hoyas. Georgetown also should be after former Drexel star wing Damion Lee, a Baltimore native who averaged 21 points per game and shot 38.5 percent from 3 last season. A third candidate is former Virginia Tech guard Adam Smith, who averaged 13 points and 42 percent from beyond the arc last year.
The competition will be stiff for all of these transfers (Lee reportedly has 70 or more schools after him), and plenty of big boys will be able to offer lots more minutes than Georgetown and a similar chance at post-season glory. Smith-Rivera's return generally is a very good thing but puts a dent in available playing time for next season, which is the only season for a graduate transfer.
Georgetown also could look for a late signing in the high school class of 2015. The only obvious candidate here would be Kenny Williams, a top-100 guard from Richmond with a reputation as a sniper. Williams originally committed to stay home to attend VCU. However, with Shaka Smart's departure for Texas, Williams may reconsider his options. Williams visited Georgetown and listed it as one of his finalists before pledging to the Rams.
There's also the possibility that JT3 banks on internal improvement from Campbell and Peak for next season and goes all-in for one or more guard prospects in 2016, when DSR graduates. Georgetown has been involved with several guard recruits in that class, including Markelle Fultz, Temple Gibbs, DaQuan Bracey, and many others. With recruiting season rapidly approaching (the first "live" period begins tomorrow), the staff may prefer to focus its efforts on long-term help starting next season.
3. Big man development will be key
Regardless of whether Georgetown gets another guard, there remains an opening down low. Joshua Smith and Mikael Hopkins are both gone, leaving basically all of next season's center minutes open. Incoming freshman Jessie Govan is the early favorite to start there. The four-star recruit certainly has the highest ceiling of the Hoya big men and appears to be both big and polished enough to adapt quickly to the college game. But he doesn't have college experience, meaning that Louisville transfer Akoy Agau (a natural power forward) and post-season revelation Bradley Hayes will likely get their fair share of chances as well.
Georgetown will be able to partially replace Smith's scoring elsewhere, if not his physical dominance. Without Smith, the Hoyas won't be able to overpower teams in the post, but they also will be less predictable. Smith's limited stamina and unlimited size meant that Georgetown had to feed him the ball when he was in the game. Now, the Hoyas will be able to move the ball more freely and perhaps run more effectively. Without Smith and Hopkins, they will need effective rebounding and rim protection, and whichever of Govan, Agau, and Hayes contributes in those categories may see the most minutes. Sliding over one spot, Isaac Copeland and Paul White both figure to see lots of time at power forward, but don't be surprised to see plenty of freshman Marcus Derrickson, who can shoot from outside and bang down low.
4. DSR should cement his place in Georgetown's record books.
Whether Smith-Rivera should have left is a complicated question. The NBA appears not to have been an immediate option, but after that are several factors that we don't know much about. What were Smith-Rivera's immediate professional prospects in Europe? How much does he value getting a college degree in four years? How alluring is one more run as a Hoya with perhaps his most talented group of teammates?
One certainty is that Smith-Rivera's early departure would have ended a career that might have landed him near the top of Georgetown's record books. Through three seasons, DSR has scored 1,386 points and made 177 three-pointers. If Smith-Rivera continues apace, he could pass Othella Harrington into the top 5 all-time in scoring and supplant Jonathan Wallace as the programs all-time leader in three-pointers made. More subjectively, Smith-Rivera now is somewhere in the debate with Wallace, Wright, Freeman, and Markel Starks for best Georgetown guards of the JT3 era. A senior season on par with his previous two, combined with a decent post-season run, would put Smith-Rivera atop that list.
5. JT3 supports his guys
Georgetown has a reputation for being less than fully public with the media, and JT3 in particular is not exactly a quote machine (unless so inspired by Jim Hayford). That's often portrayed as a negative, but in this circumstance JT3's simple, positive contribution to DSR's press release was a good thing. You can imagine how another coach--Jim Boeheim and Rick Pitino come to mind--might have treated DSR's announcement to enter the NBA Draft despite dim prospects. Hell, you don't even have to imagine Boeheim's comments, given that he's previously trashed the decisions of Tyler Ennis and Jerami Grant (his own players) to enter the NBA Draft. The rumor mill has it that Thompson went beyond the nice words and actually helped Smith-Rivera do his leg work, contacting NBA teams about the guard's professional prospects.
6. CasualHoya: not just for lunch documentation and dancing .gifs anymore
We're living in a brave new world when this humble little global phenomenon is breaking news. Our bloglord was on top of the Smith-Rivera story from the get-go, anticipating DSR's announcement to go pro and eventual decision to return. I think I speak for everyone when I say that this better not interrupt the off-season stream of Qasual Questions.