Getting to Know Dennis Smith Jr.

By Lindsey Jones

The Dallas Mavericks drafted North Carolina State freshman Dennis Smith Jr. in the first round of this year’s draft with the number 9 overall pick. It is worth to point out that Smith was the 4th overall point guard taken in the draft behind Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, DeAaron Fox, and Frank Ntilikina.

Smith went to high school at Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville, North Carolina where he quickly became a 5-star recruit. Smith was unable to play his senior season for Trinity after suffering a torn ACL in his left knee playing in the Adidas Nations Global showcase. Despite the injury, Smith was still recruited by top tier schools like Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, Louisville, and North Carolina State. Ultimately, Smith chose N.C. State and suited up for the Wolfpack for the 2016-2017 season where he averaged 18.1 points, 6.2 assists, and 4.6 rebounds in just under 35 minutes per game. Smith was named the ACC newcomer and freshman of the year in his only season playing for N.C. State.

Smith was projected as a top 10 pick in the draft and when the New York Knicks selected Frank Ntilikina at 8, the Mavs “war room” erupted in celebration. Mavs owner Mark Cuban was happy, to say the least.

“We have a great scouting department and Dennis is someone who we’ve had our eye on since we’ve started scouting this class,” Cuban said at Smith’s introductory press conference. “We were shocked when he fell to 9, we think we got the steal of the draft.”

Mavs coach Rick Carlisle said at the press conference that he thinks that Smith has the ability to make the game easier for others.

“We know we’ve got a kid who is very motivated, that has tremendous ability, and our job going forward here is to give him the tools to have the ultimate success to become a great player, to become a franchise player,” Carlisle said.

During the press conference, Smith recalled his ACL tear in high school, saying that he thinks he came back even more explosive and that his vertical has increased by 8 inches since the injury.

One criticism that Smith has faced is his defensive ability, though Smith has said he’s eager to learn and improve on his defensive prowess. His new head coach, however, insists no player in Smith’s situation comes in completely prepared to play defense at the NBA level.

“NBA defense is a different metabolic situation and there’s a lot to learn,” Carlisle said.

All in all, Dallas thinks they have a gem in Smith who can not only make the players around him better but is someone who could also improve into a potential All-Star himself. It will be interesting in the next few years to watch Smith develop and to see where he ranks among the 4 point guards who were selected before him.

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