The Mavs have their eyes on Dennis Smith, Jr., a point guard out of NC State. With the 9th pick in the NBA draft, they’d be lucky to get him. NBADraft.net has him going 7th to Minnesota, while CBS predicts the Knicks will take him 8th. Still, these projections indicate that he may be available at 9 – Draft Express thinks he’ll go 10th, to Sacramento – and if so, he appears to be a smart choice.
First of all, the Mavericks obviously need a point guard. Some would note that in 2014-2015, their last winning season, they were on track to have the best offense in history with non-entity Jameer Nelson at point, and lost it all with ball-dominant Rajon Rondo. But there’s no question that a team with J.J. Barea and Yogi Ferrell handling the ball could use a massive upgrade. Seth Curry looks to be a very nice find, but his 2.7 assists per game do not offer much hope for him as a distributor.
Second, the Dallas offense works best, and always has worked best since the days of Steve Nash, with a PG who can shoot. Smith, who averaged 36% from the college arc last season isn’t exactly a sniper, yet, but that’s quite a good number for someone so young - and Smith did that on an NC State team nearly devoid of other shooters. Draft Express also reports that he took a lot of his shots from NBA range. There are question marks about his form and positioning but he’s 19 years old and Rick Carlisle is one of the best coaches in the world.
Last year, Smith averaged 18.1 points a game, with 6 assists, and 4.6 boards. He shot 51% from the floor, a very good mark, and a decent 71.5% from the line, in addition to his 36% from the arc mentioned above. He is not yet a standout defender, but he is extremely athletic and has as much potential on both ends of the court as any guard in the draft. He is raw, but in a way that suggests he could be good at almost everything. In an era of big guards, and with the rest of the Mavs’ backcourt, Smith, at 6’3”, may be a little bit small but only by the exalted standards of our times.
The Mavericks play everything close to the vest and everything is in play here. Smith and Frank Ntilikina are, for the moment, the two names they’re most associated with and there’s at least a chance both will be available at #9. If the enigmatic Ntilikina is the more exciting possibility, Smith, no doubt, is the better known and more easily projectable. He would make a very solid pick for Dallas as they look towards the next era of Mavericks basketball.
For more on Dennis Smith's athleticism and a general disregard for the name 'Frank,' you can follow Dr. Andrew Tobolowsky on Twitter at @AndyTobo.