I’ve gotta be honest…Craig Smith probably wouldn’t have been my first
choice of Wolves players to preview for this upcoming season. He does the
dirty work…and we all value the superstars over the cleanup crew,
Well, with that said, Craiggers deserves some serious respect.
A scene at last week’s Wolves/Bucks game really impressed me- Craig
was matched up against Yi Jianlian. Yi happens to be five inches taller
than Craig. Despite the height disparity, though, Craig absolutely
manhandled Yi…Craig did a phenomenal job of boxing out Yi, and his defensive
effort against the rookie was spectacular.
Welcome to the NBA, Yi Jianlian. You just got eaten alive by the
Entering his second year in the league, it’s already clear that Craig was a fantastic pick at 36th overall in the 2006 NBA Draft. Is he on the short side for
his position? Yeah. Does he have the skillset that the superstars
at power forward have? Nope. Despite these flaws, though, Craig is
an invaluable piece of the Timberwolves roster.
I don’t know how he does it, but Craig always seems to be in exactly the
right place at the right time. Especially on the offensive boards…Craig
is in the perfect position for offensive rebounds so frequently throughout the
course of a match, that it’s obvious he has an intuition for basketball that
most other players can only dream of.
Not only does Craig make a great impact on the offensive boards, but he
doesn’t take a lot of bad shots (although he doesn’t have much of a range, to
say the least), and he is extremely powerful on the low block. Great
upper body strength, for sure.
Most importantly, though, he has heart. He wants to improve.
He’s a hard worker on the defensive end of the floor, and can hold his own
against guys that have a considerable height advantage over him. And I’d
bet that as he gains more experience in the NBA, he’ll emerge as a clubhouse
What are Craig’s flaws? Well, as mentioned, the obvious ones are his
physical limitations…he’s only 6’7", and some commentators say he’s a
bit pudgy. I certainly noticed his tendency to get into foul
trouble last season, he’s pretty ineffective outside of the low-post on
offense, and he shot a paltry 62% from the free throw line in his rookie campaign. Also, let’s just say that he shouldn’t be handling the ball too much.
But that’s what makes Craig so special. Despite his shortcomings, he’s
a guy who the Wolves should be keeping around for many seasons to come.
This year, I’m hoping to see Craig make a greater impact on the
defensive boards…the Wolves will need to compensate for the lost rebounding brought
about by the KG trade. Gomsey and Big Al
will certainly help recoup much of that rebounding, but I’m looking for Craig
to step up his efforts, as well. I’m
also looking forward to Craig receiving a sizable increase in
minutes. Last year, Witt gave Craiggers 18.7
minutes per game, and the man deserves more playing time than that!
There may not be a big market for Craig Smith jerseys. Or posters.
Or bobbleheads But the Cookie Monster is undoubtedly becoming a
fan-favorite in the Twin Cities.