Former North Carolina State star Dennis Smith Jr. had to watch not just one or two point guards get selected before him in the 2017 NBA draft, but four. Fortunately, his eventual landing spot with the Dallas Mavericks seems like it may be a match made in heaven.
While Smith was a “no brainer” top-five pick in most drafts, according to ESPN’s Chad Ford, this draft specifically was loaded with guards at the top. In turn, it resulted in the Mavericks getting possibly the biggest steal of the draft at No. 8 in Smith, who’s showing signs of being a do-it-all type of player.
There’s no question that Smith still has plenty of growing and improvement to do, but his high motor and ridiculous playmaking ability point to him being an early star and fan favorite in Dallas. Last season, players like Russell Westbrook and James Harden were the focal points of the regular season due to the fact that they could do everything asked on the offensive end of the floor.
Dennis Smith Jr. Impressing Early
Smith won’t enter the league in 2017-18 and produce anywhere close to the way Westbrook and Harden did last season, and no one expects that. Realistically, he will probably never get to that level, as very few players ever will, but he simply has the confidence and swagger that coaches and general managers so desperately look for. This is something that Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle spoke to Tim Cato’s SB Nation about recently.
“I liked his combination of confidence and humility,” Carlisle said. “When talking to him before the draft about our situation, he just had a strong belief in himself. That was clear. He had that belief without being cocky or arrogant. I admire that.”
And if there was any question that the Mavericks wanted Smith in the draft, Cato also pointed out that Carlisle said the room broke into a “thunderous applause” when the New York Knicks drafted Frank Ntilikina with the pick before them.
After three Summer League games in Las Vegas, it’s becoming more and more apparent why the draft room was so excited as well. Smith has looked exceptional, averaging 18.3 points, six rebounds, and five assists in just 27.7 minutes of action, per NBA.com. He’s also shooting 47.2 percent from the field.
Expectations for Smith in 2017-18
Based on not only his early production but what Carlisle has said about the young point guard, there’s no question that fans are going to see quite a bit of him on the court this coming season. As one member of the team’s front office told SB Nation, “he might be even better than we thought.” Carlisle also left no question about Smith’s role entering next season, either.
“He’s a kid who’s gotta be out there,” Carlisle says. “I’ve projected him as a starter, and so far, I’m not coming off of that.”
It sounds like it’d take something drastic happening for the former Wolfpack star to not be in the starting lineup when the season begins, but how will that equate to rookie production? For starters, it should make him an interesting bet to possibly win the 2017-18 NBA Rookie of the Year Award.
As far as his numbers go, he’s a do-it-all type of point guard, as previously mentioned, which should go a long way toward helping him compete for the award. His ability to fill up the box score is similar to what we’ve seen from Los Angeles Lakers No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball, who had a triple-double in the Summer League and also a monster performance with 36 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds.
It’s not hard to envision Smith averaging something close to 15 points, six assists and five rebounds in his rookie year, and that may even be too low. In his lone collegiate season, Smith averaged 18.1 points, 6.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.9 steals per game, so he’s obviously capable of putting up well-rounded numbers. But regardless, the vision with Smith isn’t just about rookie success, it’s about a potential new face of the franchise.
The Mavericks aren’t going to have 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki forever, and fortunately, it seems that they may have found their next big thing in a draft 19 years later.