DALLAS — Although the two will compete for minutes and the starting spot at point guard when the 2017-18 regular season gets underway, both first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. and second-year lead guard Yogi Ferrell expect to form a bond with the Dallas Mavericks’ Las Vegas summer-league squad, which will compete July 7-17.
Wednesday, the Mavericks’ summer squad gathered for the first time prior to heading to Las Vegas on Friday. It marked Smith’s first practice with the team after officially signing his first contract earlier in the day. The practice was also Ferrell’s first since being awarded a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team last month. And according to Mavs summer-league head coach Jamahl Mosley, it’s already clear that the two will push each other to get better during the 10-day tournament.
“That’s a great way to put it. It is definitely a friendly competition,” Mosley explained. “I think [Smith] looks and understands what Yogi has done and what Yogi is doing, and that’s making his competitive drive fire a little bit more. But it’s also saying, ‘OK, I can learn from him, but we’re still going to compete the same way.’”
Ferrell came on strong with the Mavericks last season after originally signing a 10-day contract on Jan. 28. All told, he averaged 11.3 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.1 steals in 36 games with the Mavs, making 29 starts after starring in the NBA Development League. The 24-year-old also shot 41.2 percent from the field and 40.3 percent from behind the three-point arc, becoming the first Mav to make the league’s All-Rookie Second Team since Marquis Daniels and Josh Howard during the ’03-04 campaign. That said, the 19-year-old Smith looks forward to learning from Ferrell this summer before the two compete for playing time during training camp in late September.
“I think he can make me a lot better,” Smith said with a healthy amount of respect for Ferrell. “You know, he had a pretty good year last year, and the story is crazy. A 10-day contract and now he’s here as a part of the organization. He’s a great competitor, great guy, and I think we’re going to push each other.”
Ferrell also expects to benefit from playing alongside Smith this summer, praising the former North Carolina State freshman standout for his uncanny athleticism and 48-inch vertical after one practice.
The 6-foot-3, 195-pound Smith averaged 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists during his lone collegiate season, shooting 45.5 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from behind the three-point arc. In the process, he was named the Atlantic Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and garnered a spot on the All-ACC Second Team after becoming the first player in ACC history to record two triple-doubles in the same season during conference play. Smith was also the first player to lead the ACC among freshmen in points and assists since Ed Cota during the ’96-97 season. And according to Ferrell, his rookie teammate will immediately help the Mavs bounce back from a 33-49 season.
“I mean, we’re two point guards who’ve played against some of the best competition in college basketball, so we’re going to make each other better by competing,” Ferrell said. “That’s only going to take us further out throughout the season and get us more wins.
“I know what the Mavericks value me as, and they’ve told me that since Day 1. They still tell me that every single day. Whoever they wanted to bring (in through the draft), I wanted to make sure they had a winning mentality, which Dennis does, and just someone who competes at a high level. So, anyone that they decided to bring in, I knew they would be able to step right in and help us win. … He’s got young, fresh legs. I don’t know that I can officially say that yet. I’m only 24, so maybe I’ll give it another year. But he’s got some explosiveness, so it’s going to be fun, especially throwing him some lobs.”