Derrik Smits might follow in the footsteps of his Dunking Dutchman father

TERRE HAUTE, IN - DECEMBER 28: Valparaiso Crusaders center Derrik Smits (21) shoots a free throw during the college basketball game between the Valparaiso Crusaders and the Indiana State Sycamores on December 28, 2017, at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TERRE HAUTE, IN - DECEMBER 28: Valparaiso Crusaders center Derrik Smits (21) shoots a free throw during the college basketball game between the Valparaiso Crusaders and the Indiana State Sycamores on December 28, 2017, at the Hulman Center in Terre Haute, Indiana. (Photo by Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /

Derrik Smits has showcased his ability to dominate opponents down by the basket on offense and create for his teammates. But would he be an ideal fit with the Indiana Pacers?

As a testament to the team’s consistency on the court, the Pacers haven’t held a top-five draft pick since the summer of 1988. That warm evening in New York City, Donnie Walsh opted to select a 7’4 center from the Netherlands who played at Marist College just ninety miles north of the Big Apple.

Rik Smits would dawn the Pacers logo on his uniform for his entire twelve-year career. The Dutch center was named an All-Star in 1998 and the helped lead the Pacers a finals appearance in 2000. After suffering from injuries and chronic foot pain for the latter half of his career, the Dunking Dutchman hung up his shoes, embraced retirement and began focusing on family.

That’s where our story begins. The purpose of this article isn’t to reminisce on the glory days, but to look into the future of the team. The NBA draft is just over three weeks away and the Pacers hold the 18th and 48th picks.

So, could another Smits in a blue and gold uniform be in the cards?

Looking at Derrik Smit’s strengths on the court with Valparaiso.

Derrik Smits spent his last three seasons playing for Valparaiso after having to redshirt his freshman year due to a torn ligament in his ankle. The 7’1″ center averaged 12.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in 32 games this season. He led the Crusaders in both categories for the year.

Even more impressive, his field goal percentage (59.4%) was second best in the Missouri Valley Conference. This is quite a development from the 48% conversion rate he dawned his freshman year. He left Valparaiso with a 56.4% field goal percentage over his three seasons on the court, the third highest in school history.

The continued improvement shown by Smits is promising. After averaging just 3.4 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in his first season with the Crusaders, the center was able to increase his averages to 7.5/3.6 the following year.

In his own eyes, Derrik’s biggest jump came when he was able to represent the Dutch national team last summer — the same team his father played for over the summer during his earlier college years.

Spending the most time on the court of his college career this past season, the Valpo center took advantage of his opportunity and increased his per-game averages in nearly every box score statistic.

He was able to notch four double-doubles over the season, including a 7-7 shooting performance where he dropped 23 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in an overtime win against Indiana State. His improved play on the court was acknowledged when the center was selected to the MVC all-most improved team.

Standing three inches shorter than his father, the younger kin certainly had an arsenal of low-post moves similar to his old man.

In this next clip, you’ll see that post-spin move that the center seems to favor.

Another impressive aspect of the hometown player’s game is his passing ability. With NBA teams beginning to utilize centers who can create plays for a teammate cutting to the basket, or standing in the corner for a three, court vision is an important piece for a center who relies less on perimeter shooting.

Here the Valparaiso center is able to display his ability to get the ball to an open teammate, not only from the low block, but also around the perimeter.

In the last clip, you’ll see Smits slide down to the open space after setting a screen. When a defender shifts over onto the center, he opts to fling the ball across the paint to his moving teammate instead of attempting the contested shot.

Here’s another example of his passing ability, this time a dish for a corner-three.

The transition from The Region to a higher level of competition.

Just a few months ago, the Zionsville native elected to transfer to Butler University for his final year of college eligibility. However, this didn’t stop Smits from accepting a pre-draft workout invitation from the Pacers.

Unfortunately, a minor hand injury cut the workout short for the young center. Regardless, Smits was able to get feedback from NBA coaches and showcase his talent. And even more important to him – finding areas of his game to improve on this summer: rebounding, perimeter shooting, and low-post defense.

Even his All-Star father would agree with aspects of his son’s assessment.

From the Indy Star:

“He’s always on me to rebound more. He’ll be the first person to tell you he wished he would have rebounded better, too.”

Despite his need to become more consistent with defensive rebounding, an impressive statistic of Smits game is that nearly 35% of his attempts came off the offensive glass. This allowed the center, who often had a height advantage on his defender, high-percentage opportunities around the basket. It will be interesting to see if the big man can keep a similar offensive rebounding rate playing against better competition.

His shooting from the foul stripe could use some work as well. After converting on just 61.3% of his foul shots this season, his career average, from the line, at Valpo is a meager 59.9%. As a player who wants to dominate in the low-post, getting fouled on put-back attempts or shots under the basket comes with the territory.

If the opposing team thinks a player will probably miss 2 out of every 5 foul shots, they have more of an incentive to continue whacking the center instead of giving him an easy attempt three feet from the hoop.

As many young centers experience, the Valpo center had issues with getting in foul trouble. He fouled out in three games last season and finished eight others with four fouls. For a player who has taken a large number of his shot attempts around the paint, it’s even more crucial that he’s able to play physically down low with committing fouls.

This will remain an aspect to keep an eye on if Smits is playing in Hinkle Fieldhouse with the Bulldogs next year.

So could we see Derrik Smits on the Pacers next season?

As cool as it would be for many Pacers fans to see a more modern, reincarnated version of Dunking Dutchman on the team, the chances of that pairing happening next month are incredibly slim.

More from 8 Points, 9 Seconds

The center expects to withdraw from the draft and finish the final season of his college career at Butler. With the Bulldogs losing two of their centers this summer, Smits should have a bigger opportunity against better competition.

Both Derrik and his father have mentioned wanting to expand his perimeter shooting, and they believe the change in schools could allow for that to happen.

“Hopefully this summer, we’ll get a lot of shooting in or he’ll get a lot of shooting in, and it will come back,” his father told reporters.

When Derrik was asked about potentially playing in the National Basketball Association, his response was simple, “I would say that I’ve got a lot of work to do.”

“I’ve got to get a lot stronger, be more consistent. But I’m proud of where I’m at right now,” Derrick told Kevin Brockway of CNHI Sports Indiana.

This may not be what Pacers fans want to hear, but it certainly has to be music to (Butler) coach Lavall Jordan’s ears, let alone his own father’s, who is well aware of the talent and dedication needed to carve out an NBA career.

Pacers PSA: Don’t draft Rui Hachimura. dark. Next

In an era where spacing and shooting are important factors for offensive productions, Smits would currently emulate an older-style of a post-defender. However, if he can continue to improve on his game and become more consistent on the defensive end, it’s not impossible Derrik Smits becomes a serviceable NBA player. Perhaps, someday, playing in front of the same fans that his father tantalized over two decades ago.