In the last ten years or so, the Dallas Mavericks have had their fair share of misfortunes in the NBA Draft. In 2013, Dallas drafted Kelly Olynyk only to immediately trade him to Boston and acquire Lucas Nogueira only before trading him to Atlanta. In 2006, they took Maurice Ager who only appeared in 32 games as a rookie with one start. He went on to be part of the package Dallas sent to the Nets in the Jason Kidd trade. Long story short, the Mavs had not been able to find a useful player to fulfill their needs. In 2017, the Mavs drafted point guard Dennis Smith Jr., ninth overall out of North Carolina State University. For the first time in a long time the Mavs selected a player that the fans could be really excited about.
According to his recruiting profile by 247 Sports, he was ranked seventh in the nation and third among point guards. He only played one season collegiately, but he managed to average 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 6.2 assists per game, good enough to earn him the ACC Rookie of the Year award. His draft profile indicated his impressive and unique combination of strength and athleticism and with the ability to be a very effective defender. Dirk Nowitzki even predicted that Smith would be “the steal of the draft.”
LeBron James, who has mentored Smith since high school, expressed his impression and contentment on Smith. “He’s an unbelievable talent,” he said. “He’s only going to get better and better with the opportunity he’s given here [in Dallas] to play.”
It didn’t take long for Smith to become popular in Dallas as he came on the scene and immediately began making an impact on the court. He finished his rookie season averaging 15.2 points, 5.2 assists, and nearly 4 assists per game. Smith finished fifth among rookies in points per game as well as 13th in the league in scoring drives per game with nearly 13. Smith’s notoriety however came from his unique dunking ability.
While Smith’s rookie season was solid, it’s still too early to be sure that he’s Dallas’ next franchise cornerstone. However, it is safe to say he’s heading in the right direction in his career. As he is still learning, the world can be convinced after his sophomore season.
Injuries also played a factor in his rookie season as he missed 13 games due to injuries. His struggles also included some poor decision making at times as well as his defense, which was good but had room for improvement. Decision making is something that should improve moving forward as he learns how to handle an NBA offense and hold his own on the other end of the floor.
Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle praises Smith and is proud to have the opportunity to coach him. “He’s highly intelligent, he’s very mature,” he said. “A very forthright kid.”
Smith Jr. has everyone from Nowitzki to King James singing high praises. He has a boatload of talent with his uncanny ability to dunk, streaky shooting and defensive prowess. It is too soon to say if he is a superstar in the making or is already close to his possible ceiling. Smith Jr.’s development for years to come will be a topic of discussion in Dallas, something that will have Mav’s fans clamoring at the bit.