The Dallas Mavericks have made some poor decisions the last couple summers, but drafting Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t one of them.
Lonzo Ball might get all the headlines this offseason by playing three major shoe companies against each other, but real basketball scouts are more intrigued by Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr.’s poise and athleticism.
The guard has averaged 16.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 2.2 steals and 25.2 minutes per game so far. Those statistics are pretty crazy when you consider that he’ll play over 34 minutes per contest in Dallas next season. Eddie Sefko of SportsDay even compared Smith to the reigning NBA MVP.
“It’s fair to start wondering not if Dennis Smith Jr. will start piling up triple-doubles, but when. He had two triple-doubles at North Carolina State in his freshman season, it’s not unthinkable that he has a little Russell Westbrook in him.”
Smith has put up huge numbers all summer. He dropped 25 points on the Phoenix Suns in only 27 minutes, and the fans in Dallas will grow to love that efficiency.
Current NBA players attending Summer League are impressed too. Brooklyn Nets guard D’Angelo Russell was asked at the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year Awards if anyone stood out to him this summer, and he had his answer at the ready.
"“Yeah. Dennis Smith. Dennis Smith is really good. I think a lot of teams are leaving him out,” Russell said last week. “Considering he’s one of the top guards and top players in the draft, he’s not really getting the recognition he deserves. Steve Francis. He reminds me of him.”"
The oddsmakers in Las Vegas have noticed Smith as well. So much so that two days ago he was the favorite to win rookie of the year. He is being mentored by a future Hall of Famer in Dirk Nowitzki, and head coach Rick Carlisle knows how to develop talent. Smith might disagree with his new coach every now and then, but Carlisle knows how to get the best out of his players.
"“His eyes light up when you turn on NBA film,” the head coach said to ESPN. “He’s strong, plays with force, but he also plays with great vision and good discipline. That’s a really unusual thing for a young guy like that.”"
The rookie probably won’t see the playoffs next season, but he’ll fill up the stat sheet. That could make him the first player to win rookie of the year in Dallas since Jason Kidd.
Take that Lonzo Ball.