Dallas Mavericks: 5 reasons Dennis Smith Jr. was a great pick
Here’s why the Dallas Mavericks’ selection of Dennis Smith out of NC State in the 2017 NBA Draft was a great one.
The Dallas Mavericks found themselves picking inside the lottery for the first time in the Mark Cuban era, as they had a down year in 2016-17, finishing with a record of 33-49. It was unfamiliar territory for Rick Carlisle and general manager Donnie Nelson, so it was very hard to predict what kind of direction the Mavericks would go in.
The Mavericks were reportedly offered D’Angelo Russell for the ninth pick by the Los Angeles Lakers, but they rejected the approach, and Russell was subsequently moved to the Brooklyn Nets. This showed that Dallas valued its pick and had a specific player in mind coming into the draft.
With the ninth overall selection, the Mavericks selected point guard Dennis Smith Jr. out of NC State in what was somewhat of a surprise, as most expected him to be taken by the Knicks after he had multiple meetings with Phil Jackson, and he even told reporters he would be a great fit in the triangle offense.
The Mavericks have not had a good point guard since Jose Calderon was a relevant NBA player, so it is a very exciting pick for Mavericks fans as they were just a point guard away from being a playoff team once again.
To put it short, this was an excellent selection by the Mavericks, and he is a great fit in their team. Here are the five biggest reasons that he was a terrific selection by Dallas and a look at how he fits with them moving forward.
5. He’s an actual point guard!
This may seem too basic for some people, but the Dallas Mavericks simply needed a point guard, as their offense was slow and archaic at times last year. They were reliant on Dirk Nowitzki continuing to create from that elbow, but he cannot handle that workload anymore the team and needed a breath of fresh air.
The Mavs’ backcourt was made up of cast-offs such as Devin Harris and Yogi Ferrell, and while they both played quite well, they did not help the team win games in the way that Smith will be able to. He is dynamic and has inside-out ability, which makes him a really fun fit in Rick Carlisle’s spread pick-and-roll offense.
Smith may not be a day one starter purely because of Carlisle’s policy toward rookies, but he will likely win the job quickly since the current Mavericks point guards are not very enticing options.
4. He enters a good locker room
One of the knocks on Dennis Smith is that at times, he can be a negative locker-room influence.
However, when he arrives in Dallas, he will become part of one of the oldest locker rooms in the league, and there are a lot of professional veterans in there who will help guide him through the early tests the NBA will undoubtedly offer him.
Smith may have been allowed to run riot on a younger team, but Dallas will make him grow up fast, and this is probably the best-case scenario for him on a personal level, as the Mavericks veterans will keep him grounded.
If Smith takes advice from these veterans, then he can develop into an elite point guard, as all the tools are there.
3. Dallas can diversify its offense
Due to limited personnel, Dallas’ offense became quite basic last year, as FanSided‘s Ian Levy outlined in his annual “offensive charts.” Dallas tried to create their looks from Dirk at the elbow, but they soon realized this wasn’t an effective strategy, and due to the age of their roster, they also rarely attempted transition buckets.
Dallas ran a playbook system for the most part, because they did not have any players who could make a difference in transition, or at the point guard position. All of their playmakers were in the frontcourt, and this meant that their offense was often turgid and reliant on off-ball motion, which delivered inconsistent results as they finished 23rd in offensive efficiency — compared with 10th in the previous season.
Dennis Smith is a player who is very raw, but he can at least run some of the pick-and-roll concepts that the Mavericks ran with the likes of Jason Kidd and Jose Calderon, so this will make them more effective, and more exciting to watch. At the minimum, Smith is going to generate a lot of fastbreak buckets for a team that was 30th in transition points per game last year.
2. He pushes the Mavs toward the playoffs
Dennis Smith Jr. may not be a day one starter, but even if he is the sixth man, he is someone who can get Dallas back into the playoffs.
The Mavs have an underrated core in place with the likes of Harrison Barnes and Seth Curry, and Dirk Nowitzki is still very much serviceable. They also have enough cap room to sign a decent player this summer, which makes this summer an exciting one for Dallas fans (though Nerlens Noel‘s restricted free agency will be priority No. 1, according to ESPN‘s Marc Stein).
Re-signing Nerlens Noel, league sources say, is Dallas’ offseason priority, far ahead of their long-anticipated interest in UFA Jrue Holiday
— Marc Stein (@ESPNSteinLine) June 24, 2017
The main reason the Mavericks missed the playoffs last year was because of their below-average guard play, as their highest ranked guard in win shares per 48 minutes was Seth Curry, and he was 30th in the NBA.
It was even worse for their point guards, as Devin Harris was their highest ranked point guard at 38th. Harris is a fine role player, but he couldn’t run an offense, which meant Dallas was reliant on freeing up its frontcourt players through set plays.
Smith adds something extra to this offense, and with Rick Carlisle coaching him, the Mavs could once again become pick-and-roll masters, which should push them toward a playoff spot.
1. He joins a roster with good role players
In college, Dennis Smith was surrounded by poor players, and this meant that he really had to play hero-ball. He was not surrounded by effective shooters as NC State were 143rd in three-point percentage amongst NCAA teams. Most of his highlight reels were him creating everything by himself.
Dallas’ roster isn’t one that gets a lot of credit, but it has some really good shooters on the roster such as Seth Curry, Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes. This will help Dennis Smith Jr. develop.
People tried to count the hero-ball antics against him, but he didn’t have a choice as his teammates were not capable of playing on his level.
The Dallas Mavericks have a really underrated roster in place, and the extra floor-spacing means that Smith will not have to do too much in his first year, as he will have more space to work with. Dallas has a good system in place, and Smith should be delighted because of this.