Why Marcus Smart could go No. 1

Marcus Smart's development -- in particular his 3-point shot -- has NBA executives buzzing. AP Photo/Brody Schmidt

Marcus Smart was an afterthought for the 2014 NBA draft's No. 1 pick. When Oklahoma State's point guard-in-training opted to remain in Stillwater this past offseason, there was a gasp among the college basketball community and also the NBA fraternity.

"Is he crazy?" one NBA general manager texted me moments after hearing the decision.

"He just cost himself a ton of money," another one told me at the time.

Smart would have earned in excess of $2.9 million this season if he had been selected in the top five picks this past June, but he has always bet on himself -- and it usually has worked in his favor.

Smart sat and watched, waited his turn as the freshmen -- Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle -- received all the hype early in the season. The Champions Classic featured all three, and none disappointed. The 2013-14 college hoops campaign would be all about The Frosh.

But exactly one week after the trio (along with Arizona's Aaron Gordon) had created a national firestorm and quickly become the face of college basketball, Smart made a statement.

"Don’t forget about me."

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound point guard scored a career-high 39 points against a ranked Memphis team that was supposed to boast the best backcourt in the nation.