Coming out of North Carolina State University, 19-year-old point guard, Dennis Smith Jr, has impressed fans with his electrifying speed and winning mentality. Standing at 6’3, he averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.2 assists and 1.9 steals per game while playing at NC State. Leading his team to 15 wins and 17 losses during the 2016-2017 NCAA season, Smith displayed his scoring ability and capable playmaking.
Although he is not the best 3-point shooter, his average of 35.9% is impressive considering he had to create the majority of his shots. Smith creates his shots by pushing the tempo on fast breaks, using his quick first step and change of speed to beat defenders both off the dribble and in the pick-and-roll. With work, it is possible to improve and solidify his streaky shooting habits. Smith Jr. uses his strength, and a 48” vertical allows him to drive through contact and score at a 61% field goal at the rim. Additionally, this may also allow him to be a proficient defender as he can recover quickly and body other guards.
Upon being drafted, many professionals such as Seth Greenberg (analyst for ESPN), Mike Breen (commentator) and Rick Carlisle (Dallas Mavericks head coach) compared Smith Jr. to Derrick Rose. Clearly in this case, when Rose was at his best before his injuries. Let's just hope Smith can have a healthier career.
Dennis Smith Jr. was the fifth point guard taken in the NBA behind Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, De’Aaron Fox and Frank Ntilikina. Due to Fultz’s injury and Ntilikina not participating it is unfair to compare them, however, juxtaposing Smith's performance against Ball and Fox’s is truly riveting.
With a considerably worse team, Smith outperformed both rookies averaging 18.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.3 steals per game while shooting 47.2% from the field. Fox is averaging 15.7 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 2.7 steals per game, with a similar 47.1% on field goals. Lonzo, the ‘Big Baller,' only averaged 8 points per game. However, he did display his length and court vision by averaging 7.5 rebounds and 8.0 assists a night. Having said that, he averaged 0.7 steals per game less than Smith and shot at an appalling 25% from the field.
In spite of the fact that yes, it is only the Summer League and only three games in, you cannot argue against Smith’s potential and competitive nature against his fellow rookies.
Upon being drafted at pick nine to the Dallas Mavericks, many fans believed he was a perfect fit for their system. The fit works because of the lack of pure point guards on the current Mavericks roster. I think we can all readily agree that J.J. Barea, Yogi Ferrel, and Seth Curry are not good enough to lead a team at the starting point guard position. Coming off the bench, they can all contribute. Smith Jr. playing the one will allow him to develop faster.
Additionally, due to his ability in the pick-and-roll offense, Smith Jr. can easily penetrate and open up slots for his teammates. His ability will look better as the NBA talent surrounding him such as Harrison Barnes, and Dirk Nowitzki will knock down shots at much higher rates than his North Carolina State teammates.
Even Smith Jr. himself said he believes he will fit into the Dallas system. Below is a recent quote:
“I think I'm a pretty good pick-and-roll player. I've been working on all of the reads, and I'm getting better at making the correct play out of those reads. Pick-and-roll offense spread out is perfect for me. Especially running it with a guy like Dirk [Nowitzki] and even Nerlens [Noel]. And I think it's going to work very well. We're going to complement each other, me and the offense.
After seeing him perform in the Summer League, it is easy to understand why Mark Cuban remained quiet about his pick. He did not want to let this star get away.