The Dallas Mavericks got Dennis Smith Jr. ninth overall in this year’s draft, and coach Rick Carlisle had high praise for the NC State standout.
After his lone season in college, it was hard to deny Smith as one of the premier players in the ACC. The 6-3, hyper-athletic floor general posted 18.1 points and 6.2 assists in 32 games for a mediocre team and finished the year as the conference’s Rookie of the Year. Following the stellar campaign, the Mavericks were as high on Smith as anyone, and Rick Carlisle gushed about his franchise point guard.
According to ESPN’s Tim McMahon, Carlisle wasted no time. The bold proclamations of Smith being an “instant starter and impact player” came on draft night, after Dallas got lucky when the New York Knicks picked Frank Ntilikina eighth overall.
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Ever since his high school days, Smith has been a star. A blend of electrifying scoring ability, ridiculous athleticism and ankle-shattering handles made him an internet sensation. 247Sports had him as a five-star prospect and ranked him eighth overall in the 2016 class. He drew offers from all over the country but picked NC State and the year he had was incredible given he missed his senior year of high school after tearing his ACL.
Smith’s continued to torch the competition through two Summer League games. It’s a tiny sample size, but 19.5 points, 7.5 boards and 5.0 assists is a solid line. What’s more important than the numbers is how he gets them. Not only is DSJ a versatile playmaker, but he also competes with a noticeable edge; the kind of player who knows you can’t guard him, and he relishes in it.
His second Summer League game was against Josh Jackson and the Phoenix Suns, and it was, by far, the more impressive of the two. Smith finished with 25 points and four steals. How he got his buckets was courtesy of his brilliant versatility, and it’s easy to see why Carlisle would say what he said about his lottery pick. Smith looked engaged from start to finish, and that was something that plagued him during his year at NC State. Sometimes he’d take plays off, but he’s so dynamic that it was easy to forget. That’s not going to work in the NBA.
Only time will tell if Smith can maintain this intensity, but I don’t see why it’s an issue. The Mavericks are in a better situation than the Wolfpack were, and everyone is behind Smith as the centerpiece.
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