Why Dennis Smith Jr.'s early stardom isn't all good news

Dennis Smith is coming out of his shell. Since the beginning of the month, at the time of this writing, he was averaging over 18 shots a game and making, if not an efficient amount, at least a pleasing one. Nobody’s psyched about 41.1% shooting from the floor, but 37% from three is another matter, and 19.6 points a game is an exciting one altogether. It’s best if a guy is efficient, generally, but despite what some people think volume scoring isn’t as easy as it looks. Not to mention…well, we’ll get to that.

It’s fair to say that, at least in the last very long time, the Mavs have never had a rookie like Dennis Smith. They’ve never had anybody this good, this young. Some of that’s a knock on the Mavs, as well as a statement about how raw Dirk really was when he first got here, but it’s still true. He’s already dropping 27 points on the Spurs, for his third 20+ game of the year – out of 13 total. Dirk didn’t break 20 until his thirty-sixth game. There’s almost no way Dennis will be as good as Dirk turned out to be, but for now, at least, that’s not the point.

Of course, it’s not all good news. When I say Dennis is starting to play like a star player, I’m saying he’s starting to occupy the space on the court of a star player, and take the shots of a star player, and that may not be great, so soon. It’s because the Mavs have the wing depth of your average penguin. But, it’s still risky for a rookie to play with this much freedom. Since October 28, he’s had three different games of six turnovers, and three more of 4-plus. He’s settling for three pointers a lot – 6.6 per game, in November, at the time of this writing. And he is overall shooting poorly from everywhere but the arc. 

But it’s mostly really good news. I would love to see him pass to Dirk more, because I love Dirk, and I would like to see him pass to anyone because I think that’s a good thing for a rookie point guard to think about. I would like to see him shoot fewer threes, even though he’s averaging 37% from the arc this month, because settling for threes gets easier as the season goes on and it would be great for him to work on his finishing at the rim. I would like to know if he can be an NBA point guard, rather than a scoring guard, which is also important as the Mavs determine what to do with Seth Curry, who never quite managed to be a floor general. He’s had some big assists games, but they’re getting few and far between.

But, Dennis Smith, 19 years old ‘til the end of the month. This time last year, he was a freshman playing for the NC State Wolfpack. Even being in a position to have these kinds of complaints so early is an impressive accomplishment. It’ll be fun to see what happens next.

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