DALLAS — After dazzling fans with highlight-reel plays throughout the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas earlier this month, Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. has immediately turned his attention to preparing for the upcoming 2017-18 season.
Garnering at spot on the All-NBA Summer League First Team, Smith filled up the stat sheet during the Mavericks’ six games in Las Vegas by averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per outing. He also showed the ability to score in a multitude of ways, shooting 45.7 percent from the field and 34.6 percent from beyond the three-point arc. Still, after success against some of the league’s up-and-coming stars, Smith feels that his game will continue to grow during his rookie season. That said, the ninth pick in June’s NBA Draft is admittedly eager to join forces with veterans like 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, leading scorer Harrison Barnes and sharpshooter Wesley Matthews during the Mavs’ training camp in late September.
“I grew a lot. I learned a lot about the NBA game,” Smith said after leading the Mavs’ summer-league squad to the semifinals of the 10-day tournament.
“Individual things don’t matter,” he added. “You know, I’m just moving on from summer league now and getting ready for training camp. I wouldn’t say it gives me an upper hand on anything. There’s no vets out there. You know, it helped me with conditioning. I got used to playing the NBA game, and that’s the biggest thing.”
The 19-year-old Smith is no stranger to individual accolades, earning Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and All-ACC Second Team honors during his lone collegiate season at North Carolina State. He also was the first player in ACC history to record two triple-doubles in the same season during conference play, becoming the first player to lead the ACC among freshmen in points and assists since Ed Cota during the ’96-97 season. But despite averaging 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists during his freshman season, Smith may have just begun to tap into his full potential in the Mavs’ system.
Scoring 14 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing six assists in 25 minutes, Smith had an impressive summer-league debut as the Mavericks captured a 91-75 victory over Chicago. He followed that performance up with a 25-point explosion the next day, leading the Mavs to an 88-77 victory over No. 4 overall draft pick Josh Jackson and the Phoenix Suns. Two days later, Smith picked up where he left off at with 16 points, three rebounds, five assists and three steals in a 78-73 victory against Miami to remain unbeaten. Another 25-point effort would come against No. 5 overall draft pick De’Aaron Fox and the Sacramento Kings during an 83-76 win. But despite scoring just three points on 1-of-6 shooting in Dallas’ 91-74 win over Boston in the quarterfinals, Smith bounced back to post 21 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals in a losing effort as the Mavericks fell to the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers. And according to Mavs summer-league coach Jamahl Mosley, it’s that growth that will serve Smith well during the ’17-18 season.
“I keep saying this, and I’ll say it time and time again: He’s grown,” Mosley said while speaking highly of the first-year floor general. “He has the ability to learn on the fly, and he has the ability to process things in-game. As he gets going more and more, and as the season goes along, he’s going to grow for each game. It’s a continuous process, and he’s shown that he can continue to grow.”