Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle
“This is a huge day for us, a huge night. I started studying the draft back in March with the way our season was going. There were four really big time point guards in the draft. I love Dennis Smith. I thought he was as good as any of them... I just never dreamed at nine having the opportunity to take one of those four guys.
“We’re getting a guy that’s an instant impact guy: he has great quickness, he's explosive, he can score, he can pass.
“We didn't have [Smith] in for a workout because it just didn't seem like he was gonna fall to us. Last several days, couple of our guys went down to a pro day he had in Raleigh, had a great visit with him there.
“Donnie, myself, Mike Finley FaceTimed him a couple days ago and asked him some pointed questions that were not easy questions for a guy in his position about coming into a team with some veterans. He's a no-nonsense guy... he’s a hit-first personality, he wants to be great.
“Before anybody asks at this point in time, I would project him as a starter, but he's gonna have to earn it and he understands that.
“This is a historic night for us. Fulfilled a great need. Playmaking is such an important part of the NBA game now, that having guys like Dennis Smith, Jr. that can create simply on their own, let alone pick and rolls (and pick and rolls with Dirk), is a great blessing for us tonight.”
On what Smith brings besides athleticism
“In our interviews, he’s highly intelligent, very mature, and he was in a very challenging situation this year, coming off an ACL [injury] last year in high school. Their team was not as good as they wanted to be. All those things considered, he had great responses to questions. Very forthright kid. No nonsense, no bull.
“We let him know if we were in a position to take him and he end up here, we were gonna give him a lot of love, but we were gonna give him the honest truth everyday and we were gonna bust his butt to make him as great as he can be.
“He’s a great playmaker. I asked him the question, ‘Who do you think your game is like?’... He thought that he was a bit like Derrick Rose as a stronger point guard that could slash, create, shoot the ball, create, do those kind of things... That’s not bad, that’s a former MVP.
“Dennis has a lot of ability. We feel he has the ability to improve a lot going forward. Entering the NBA can be a very humbling thing, but we're gonna make sure he has the support and the education and the necessary steps to step into this thing the right way. We believe he's gonna be a tremendous player for us and right away.”
On how long it took to make the pick on the clock
“Once we had confirmation New York was taking Frank [Ntilikina], there was a lot of silence until we actually heard the name Frank by the commissioner, then there was an uproarious group applause in there. It was thunderous. We’re very fortunate.”
On what the Mavs would have done if Frank and Smith were both available
“We knew they weren't. That's Donnie Nelson, Mike Finley, mine, and Mark Cuban's job to know those things.”
On concerns about Smith’s motor
“Those were questions that we asked him. Rather than play amateur psych and give you an answer of what he said, he’ll be here tomorrow and those are questions you can ask him and he’ll welcome them. He knows he’s not a perfect player and not a perfect product. That's one of the things we really like about him.”
On Smith’s defense
“There's no player that comes into the NBA game that doesn't have potential to improve defensively. It's just a fact. It doesn't matter who you're talking about. That's gonna be an adjustment.
“That's something we talked to him about, that it would be challenging and that there would be times some of the veterans are gonna play ahead of him for that reason and that he's gonna have to push and continue to push to learn about the importance of defense and the different dynamics of the NBA.
“The players at this level are just so much bigger and faster and quicker than college. There's just gonna be an adjustment, there's no two ways about it.”
On forming a relationship
“Same relationship with all my players: truthful respectful, do everything possible to make his experience as a Dallas Maverick life changing. I'm all about growth.”
On whether the Mavs always wanted a PG in the draft
“We had our bases covered if this kind of player was not available. But the truth is, you've gotta be prepared for every single scenario. When you're really prepared and you really do the work, you get some breaks.”
Was Mark’s trip to Europe to see Frank Ntilikina a smokescreen?
“We like Frank, we like Frank a lot. Mark was over there on a family vacation to Italy, so things just lined up. We were unable to get Frank over here for a workout because his team kept winning.
“There wasn't one move made that wasn't meaningful. Wasn't to cover a base, to dot an i or cross a t. We liked Frank very much.”
What kind of questions did Smith ask
“He didn't ask him that much, he just said I'm ready to go. Make no mistake, this is a very confident young man. He has great belief in his abilities. He’s got a group of family people that support him unbelievably well. He’s prepared for this moment. He’s gone through a lot to get here with the knee injury and a lot of other things.
“We’re thrilled. When you see this guy get on the court and see him playing, you’re going to understand our enthusiasm even more”
Mavericks executive Michael Finley
What jumped out to you?
“He's a good kid. We’ve seen him in person playing, seen him on tape, but to have the opportunity to have a conversation with him was great.
“A very smart kid, has a lot of confidence in his game, and I think he's gonna be the type of player that not only will the team enjoy, but the community will enjoy, as well.”
On Smith coming in as the starter
“Well, I think coach hit it on the head, he has to earn the point guard position, the starting position. He has the talent and ability to hopefully become the starter, but like coach said, he has to earn it. For him, once you get to know him and talk to him, he's a very confident kid. He'll take that challenge and run with. He's gonna be the type of kid to come in and work extremely hard and do whatever he can to solidify himself as the starting point guard, but it’s definitely something he has to earn.”
On what Smith brings to the team
“With this day and age and the way the game is going, to have an athletic scorer at the wing, particularly at the point guard position, gives you a chance to compete and be competitive in each and every game.
“When you get a chance to see him play, it’ll be something to admire. He’s a tremendous athlete. He’ll give the Dallas fans something to cheer about, especially when he’s out on the break.
“We feel hopefully he can come in and help us get out of this lottery position we were in this year. It was a happy moment because unlike some of the past drafts, the guy we really wanted, we got.
“For us to have a chance to get him at No. 9... I think our scouts, coaches and front office were excited to have the opportunity to draft him.”
On what player Smith reminds him of
“He compared himself to Derrick Rose with a jump shot. I said that's a pretty good comparison. If I had to think of a player, I felt that was pretty accurate, before Derrick got hurt, in his MVP years, he was a downhill point guard who liked to attack.”
Mavericks general manager Donnie Nelson
“[Smith is] an electric young player with tons of potential. Obviously young, minutes are earned in this league. His skill set is rare. I think he'll be a terrific fit. Pick-and-roll point guard, big time athleticism. Tons of potential. I think with Rick and specifically the system that we play, it's a really really good fit.”
“This was the guy that we were after. If we would have drafted a lot higher, he was the guy that we had circled. Strange set of circumstances panned out, surprise pick or two and we got our guy.
“Positionally it fits, [our] really big hole was at point guard. He fits in really well with our guys, our chemistry, where we're going. We think he can be another really nice building block in what we’ll call our retool.
“He and Dirk in a pick and roll is exciting to think about. We are just ecstatic.
“We haven't had an over-the-rim presence like that, a guy that can do pretty special things both with the long ball and opening things up. It's fair to say, we won a championship with Jason [Kidd], who was at a different stage of his career. We haven't had this kind of athletic presence since I've been with the Mavericks.
“Rick is a good, old school coach. Everyone knows that when you play for Rick, every minute is earned and it's gonna be a tough training camp. We feel as a franchise it's a matter of time, probably but that's in his court. Those are coaching decisions, and Rick’s the best in the business. It's really up to him if that transition happens early or latter. Training camp is gonna be important. He's gonna have to earn the respect of the locker room. I do know he has the skills to do it.”
On if the Mavs aren’t targeting a point guard in free agency now
“I would say that’s accurate. If you look at our veteran leadership with Yogi, and to have this box checked as far as a future building block, our focus will probably be elsewhere.”
Description of the draft room
“There was a lot of chest bumping out there, lot of chest bumping, high fiving. We work all year, scour the earth and come together, and it's a really intense time. This was one that we had to get right, and one we had to get a little lucky with. We feel both of those things kinda fell in place but it wasn't without a lot of effort.
“It’s well documented that Mark went halfway around the world because this was an important draft for us. Spent a lot of time making sure we checked off boxes. We don't want to get too excited about players, but he's got all the right stuff.”
On Mark Cuban’s visit with Frank Ntilikina
“This city, this team is Mark's home and Mark's family. There's nothing he won't do, traveling the ends of the world to bring a champ back to Dallas. We hope today was one step toward that process.
On Dirk’s thoughts, since Dirk was in the draft room
“I think Dirk understood the kind of electric player that Dennis is and what he can bring to the table. We were all pretty excited.”
On Smith having a leg up on other lottery picks because of the Mavs’ situation and veteran players
“He has the ability for sure. He has the work ethic, he has the makeup. Great kid, not a good kid, a great kid. We did lots and lots of due diligence. It’s up to him.
“Those minutes have gotta be earned. Last I checked, J.J. [Barea] has a heart big as all outdoors, and Devin Harris is gonna come and try to get some of those minutes, and Yogi Ferrell had a pretty nice season for us last season, so it’s not easy for a 19-year-old to walk into that forum, and again, minutes are earned. So it's gonna be an exciting training camp.”
What separates Smith from other point guards in this draft?
“They're all different. If he wouldn't have had the season, the kind of challenges he had last year and he wouldn't have had his injury (which we obviously looked at and checked out), he would have gone a lot higher than nine, I can guarantee you that. So I think it was again a little luck, little bit of a fallen angel factor with the kind of season he struggled through, a lot of that was the players he was surrounded with.
“For you as a quarterback to know your head coach was gonna be gone halfway through the season, he showed a lot of gut and professionalism to fight through that. It’s hard and that's a lot of pressure for a 19-year-old to know you're basically playing for your coach's job, and to be notified halfway through the season, it's a very difficult situation. He's a very, very intelligent, mature young man with a great family surrounding.
“Those are the kinda guys we want to get inside our locker room.”
On concerns with his knee injury
“Probably would have had a 50-inch vertical instead of a 48-inch vertical if he wasn't injured. His knee is fine, he's young, and again, we had a chance to do a deep dive on that. I think our fans are going to be really excited about this young player because he is ready to explode and wants to prove to the world that he's better than the position he was drafted in tonight.”
Dennis Smith, Jr.
“It was great. They came to my pro day, and they were impressed with what they saw. I'm already impressed with the history with the organization. It didn't do anything but add to my admiration of the organization.
“I’m definitely motivated. I just use it as fuel for the fire. I've been underrated my whole life, that's perfectly fine, I'm accustomed to it. I'm gonna go out there and be Dennis Smith, Jr. and nothing can stop that.
“Mavs can expect to get a point guard who's trying to win every game, not selfish at all, not caring about stats, but I do want to make my teammates better. That's very important in this game is having a team effort, and I can bring that to the table.
“With Dirk and Nerlens, it's gonna be great. Dirk can teach me a lot of things even though he’s never been a ball handler in the pick and roll. He can teach me a lot because he knows the ins and outs of the game, and I'm looking forward to learning from him.”