Law Nation Film Study: Dennis Smith Jr.

Captivated by the immense athletic potential of Dennis Smith Jr., Law Nation breaks down NBA film for the Mavs top pick.

Strengths
Smith is likely the most explosive athlete in the 2017 NBA Draft. He has an elite first step to pair with terrific vertical explosiveness. That, along with his advanced ball-handling ability and terrific footwork in the pick-and-roll, allows him to get separation from opponents with ease. He knows how to use screens, can use that first step to blow by mismatches in isolation and can get out into transition. In all of these cases, Smith can finish above the rim, where his 60.7 field goal percentage in half-court settings around the basket is extremely high for a guard. He’s a confident shooter who can hit shots off the catch.
Smith is also a creative passer, a player who excels at a higher level creating looks for teammates within the flow of the offense rather than out on the break. He can hit teammates with wrap-around passes underneath the basket, kick-out passes on drives or quick looks to open players from a standstill. His 34.2 percent assist rate was top 30 in college basketball, despite his teammates shooting just 33.8 percent from 3-point range in ACC play, which would have been last in the conference.
In terms of the rest of his floor game, it’s worth noting that Smith is a good rebounder, and a pesky defender when he wants to be. He’s good at getting into passing lanes and using his quickness despite length that would be slightly below average for a point guard.

Weaknesses
Size and durability is the primary concern here. At 6-3, 195 pounds, Smith isn’t the biggest guy in the world, and he won’t post elite length measurements to make up for it. He also tended to avoid contact this season, although it’s difficult to judge whether that was a reaction to the injury and a decision out of self-preservation (which, well, I can’t blame him). He’ll need to be willing to use his athleticism to embrace contact in the NBA, where he should be a magnet for fouls after he gets past his initial defender.

Overall Thoughts/Best Fits
Athleticism and the ability to create separation consistently from defenders is the most valuable skill a point guard can have in the modern NBA. Throw in the fact that Smith can also pass it as well as score at all three levels, and it’s hard not to like the upside. He isn’t quite as safe a pick as De’Aaron Fox due to some of the makeup questions, but if he hits, he’s going to be an All-Star because of the ability to get space for himself.

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