Expectations for Dennis Smith Jr. have been high ever since the Dallas Mavericks selected him with the No. 9 overall pick back in June. Those high expectations only grew with his impressive performances in the Las Vegas Summer League and the preseason.
So when it finally came time for Smith Jr. to make his official NBA debut, it was natural, as a fan, to approach it with caution. After all, he’s only 19 years old, and surely the pressure and nerves of opening night would get to him, right? — Wrong.
Naturally, Dennis Smith Jr.'s first @NBA points come on a dunk. #NBARooks pic.twitter.com/XqItcANjxm— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) October 19, 2017
That’s how the Dennis Smith Jr. era began — with a bang. And although his team didn’t get the win, Smith Jr. definitely held up his end of the deal, scoring 16 points (on 50-percent shooting) to go along with 10 assists. In doing so, he became the youngest player in league history to record a points-assists double-double. The previous youngest player to do it was a guy the Mavs know an awful lot about — Jason Kidd.
Smith Jr.’s assist total from last night is even more impressive when you consider that Dirk Nowitzki and Harrison Barnes both had off nights (each missed 10 shots and shot under 29-percent). He could have easily reached 15+ assists if those guys hadn’t been cold, and I wouldn’t bet on Nowitzki or Barnes to miss 10 shots per night very often. All things considered, Smith Jr.’s court vision and poise is well beyond where it should be for a 19-year-old, and that bodes well for him as he progresses through this season.
Dennis Smith Jr. gets triple-teamed and is OK with it. pic.twitter.com/ZuWQfcKQ9z— Bobby Karalla (@bobbykaralla) October 19, 2017
Rookies are never perfect, and I wouldn’t rule out Smith Jr. having some games this season where he struggles to put it all together, especially against tougher opponents. But — for a guy that’s projected as the future face of the Dallas Mavericks, you couldn’t have asked for a much better start to his career. Smith Jr. will face fellow rookie point guard, De’Aaron Fox next, as the Mavs take on the Sacramento Kings at home. After that game on Friday, things will get turned up to another level, as he’ll face Chris Paul, Steph Curry and Mike Conley back-to-back-to-back.
Life is about to come at Smith Jr. pretty fast, but if the season opener is any indicator, he should be up for the challenge. As Rick Carlisle famously said one time, Dirk “makes love to pressure.” Wouldn’t it be great if Smith Jr. possesses that same trait?