Dennis Smith Jr. has arrived. The Dallas Mavericks’ first-round draft pick made his NBA debut Wednesday night. In a game that saw the Mavericks fall to the Atlanta Hawks, 117-111, Smith Jr. showed that he’s more than capable of competing at the sport’s highest level.
The youngest starter in Mavs history began his career with a bang. On the Mavericks’ first possession, Smith Jr. skied to catch an alley-oop pass from Wesley Matthews, punctuating the play with a dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. Throughout the game, Smith Jr. showed off his athleticism with impressive leaps, spins, and speed.
Dennis Smith. First possession of his NBA career. Alley-oop.
Welcome to the NBA, kid.pic.twitter.com/WFuLNetptm— Mike Leslie (@MikeLeslieWFAA) October 19, 2017
Unfazed by any nerves, Smith Jr. approached the game as he does any other.
“I jump ball, I say my prayers and let the Lord know I’m thankful to be here, and then I’m ready to go,” he said.
That much was apparent.
Smith Jr. filled the box score, scoring 16 points on 50 percent shooting and dishing out 10 assists, becoming the youngest player to have a points and assists double-double in their debut in NBA history. Smith Jr. also tallied three rebounds; though that is a point of contention he has with his performance.
“Rebounding,” Smith Jr. said when asked what he could do better after the loss. “I didn’t contribute enough, and that was a focal point coming into the game. I didn’t do my part on that.”
With any rookie, let alone one playing in a losing effort, there will always be room for improvement. As head coach Rick Carlisle pointed out, the team could have performed better too. But he liked what he saw from Smith Jr. and knows that he’ll continue to grow.
“A lot of really good things,” Carlisle said of what he got from Smith Jr. “And then, you know, there’s going to be mistakes. Everybody made mistakes. He made a few but he’ll learn quickly especially now that the real games have started.”
Even with the mistakes, it was an impressive night.
“I thought he did a great job,” Harrison Barnes said of Smith Jr. “In your first game in the NBA you usually have a lot of nerves but I thought he came out there and played beyond his years.”
The outcome wasn’t what he nor the team wanted, but Dennis Smith Jr.’s NBA debut marks the beginning of a new era for Dallas.