We all know that Dennis Smith Jr. can dunk a basketball. It’s what gets him into the highlights, and it’s what fans at the AAC came to see. And for his part, Smith Jr. hasn’t let the fans down during his rookie season. But there are other things he has shown he can do. Here are some of his other talents that have caught our attention.
1. Pinpoint passes for the three
When Smith Jr. got into the lane earlier in the season, he’d sometimes get stuck without a shot or a way to pass out of the defense. It’s a part of his game that has quickly developed and now he’s getting the ball out to open shooters in the corners or at the top of the arc. National media has taken notice, too. Zach Lowe of ESPN recently noted Smith Jr.’s passing skills.
2. Fancy handles
We’ve already seen some pretty impressive ball-handling skills by the Mavs’ rookie. While it’s no surprise that he can handle the ball, it is still a shock to the system for Mavs fans who have gotten used to solid, if not flashy, play from the team’s point guards.
One moment in particular elicited a rare kind of “oohs” and “aahs” for the home fans. Against the Brooklyn Nets, Smith Jr. dribbled the ball up into the front court and faked a drop pass for a trail three between his legs to Harrison Barnes. It was the type of indescribable improvisation assistant coach and dribbling legend God Shammgod had to be proud of.
3. Mini-Dream Shake
We’ve seen him bust this move out on occasion including against the Denver Nuggets. He’ll drive hard to the basket, come to a stop with a strong ball fake, then spin back around for an easy shot. Coupled with his behind-the-back pass fake, Smith Jr. is developing a solid arsenal of ball fakes.
4. One-man fast break
A weapon that the Mavericks have unleashed more as the season moves along is allowing Smith Jr. to push hard after securing a defensive rebound. He’ll push the pace by flying down the court and look for his own shot. Sometimes he’ll pull the ball back out or pass to an open teammate, but the result remains the same: opposing teams have to worry about getting back on defense instead of relentlessly crashing the offensive glass.
This goes hand-in-hand with his dunks, but Smith Jr. has shown his fearlessness in other aspects of his game. He doesn’t shrink in close games and he hasn’t stopped driving to the basket no matter how much abuse he puts his body through. Smith Jr. has also been ready to mix it up against veterans looking to intimidate the youngster, including when Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors came to town and tried to get in Smith Jr.’s head.
Smith Jr. is still learning how to operate without having to dunk on every play. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News noted that taking a beating every game isn’t the best way to go through a rigorous NBA season. High-flying players including Blake Griffin have come to the same conclusion at some point in their careers. Now that Smith Jr. has reached that point, Mavs fans have to be anxiously waiting to see what the rookie has next.
Follow Jeff Mapua on Twitter @JeffMapua