As Summer League enters its single-elimination tournament round, it's clear that the Dallas Mavericks will only go as far as their backcourt takes them. Through three games, the Mavs are undefeated thanks largely in part to the duo of Yogi Ferrell and rookie Dennis Smith, Jr. And the pair shows no signs of slowing down.
“I really enjoy it,” Mavericks Summer League head coach Jamahl Mosley said of playing the two together. “That's a very good backcourt. They play off each other very well. When one gets a little tired, the next one takes over...And they both know how to play with the other guys so I think that helps a lot so there's not a selfishness to either one of them.”
So far, Ferrell is averaging 15 points on 46.7 percent shooting, 3.7 rebounds, 2.7 assists, and three steals. In the last game, Tuesday evening, Ferrell lead the team with 23 points in a competitive 78-73 win over the Miami Heat.
Ferrell knows that his success has a lot to do with his backcourt teammate.
“Sometimes I don't have to do everything,” Ferrell said. “So I definitely like that. I can play off the ball a little bit, knock down open shots. I don't have to go out there and kill myself every single play I bring the ball up when they're pressuring me. It's been good playing with Dennis.”
Smith, Jr., who Dallas selected ninth overall in this summer's NBA Draft, is a highly-touted guard, with at least one scout predicting he’ll be the 2017-18 Rookie of the Year.
While he has become a fan favorite with eye-popping dunks in pregame warmups, his coach has been impressed with the poise he's shown during games.
“His ability to pick up things things quickly,” Mosley said about what impresses him with Smith, Jr. “So, like the adjustments he's made on the fly during games. Right away, if something has happened, he figures it out, checks it, then goes to whatever the next process is. He steps into it. That's a big thing for a young guy.”
That play has contributed to his output. Smith, Jr. is averaging 18.3 points in 47.2 percent shooting, six rebounds, five assists, and 2.3 steals. And while he is learning to play at a higher level, it helps to have Ferrell as a mentor.
“[I’m] just trying to tell him to play with pace,” Ferrell said of what he is teaching Smith, Jr. “He's quick, fast just like I am. He doesn't have to play fast all the time. Switch speeds. Know when to go fast and know when to slow down.”
Even though he's still learning the game, Smith, Jr. isn't lacking in confidence. The way in which he plays is evidence of that. However, he understands that he's lucky to be where he is.
“I realise it's a blessing,” Smith, Jr. said of playing in the NBA. “It's things like that that keep me humble. Everybody is not able to make it to this point, especially where I'm from. So, me just being able to come out and play basketball at the highest level is a blessing. I'. just thankful for that.”
As the Mavericks advance in Summer League, it's clear that the coaches and players are thankful that Ferrell and Smith, Jr. are leading the way. Not just in Las Vegas but into next season as well.
LINK: Full summer league stats