There’s an issue in the NBA that hasn’t been discussed enough: the Dallas Mavericks’ dynamic rookie point guard, Dennis Smith Jr., isn’t getting very much respect from officials when he drives into the paint. For a super-explosive guard that attacks the rim on a nightly basis, the fact that Smith Jr. is only averaging 2.4 free throw attempts per game is a travesty.
It’s true that rookies don’t always get a whistle, but this has happened to Smith Jr. so many times this season, that I wanted to dig a bit deeper and try to shed some light on a few (of the many) instances in which DSJ has been the victim of a no-call.
Whether he’s getting bopped on the head by Aron Baynes, hit below the belt by Tobias Harris or ridden like a horse by Dwight Howard, the refs are turning a blind eye towards the contact dealt to Smith Jr., and we’ve got video to prove it.
Here the culprit is Boston Celtics’ center, Aron Baynes. As Smith Jr. weaves through the paint and rises up to attempt a layup, Baynes clearly hits him in the head while trying to block the shot. There was no whistle, and Smith Jr. was credited with a missed field goal attempt.
Sometimes you can understand why an official doesn’t make a call, depending on where they’re positioned on the floor. In this case, however, the official is standing right in front of Smith Jr. with a clear view of Baynes’ follow through.
This one isn’t as blatant, but in the Mavs’ recent game against the Orlando Magic, Bismack Biyombo got away with some lower body contact that clearly had an effect on Smith Jr.’s shot. If you look closely, you can see Biyombo putting his right arm on Smith Jr.’s hip as he attempts to close in for a block.
In that same game, the officials disregarded the NBA’s verticality rule by not calling Marreese Speights for a foul on this play. Speights clearly did not established himself defensively before going up for a potential block, and his forward momentum caused his lower body to run into Smith Jr.
In this next offense, you’ll see Tobias Harris push off Smith Jr.’s thigh with his left hand. The baseline official can’t see that foul as clearly as the sideline official at the bottom of the frame, but even he should’ve known there was a foul by the way Smith Jr. landed after the play.
A common theme with these last three no-calls has been lower body contact. Smith Jr. possesses incredible athleticism and can leap out of the gym on any given night. In cases like these, I wonder if officials are simply paying more attention to potential upward contact or if they’re just not giving him the call because he’s a rookie who hasn’t earned their respect yet.
As Milwaukee Bucks point guard Eric Bledsoe gets completely overpowered here, the only thing left for him to do is to foul Smith Jr. by grabbing his waistline, forcing Smith Jr. to earn these two points from the free thr— NOPE. There wasn’t a foul called here either.
It must give Andre Roberson a great feeling of comfort, knowing that he can collapse on an opponent in mid-air without being penalized with a foul.
In the Mavericks’ first matchup with the New Orleans Pelicans this season, Smith Jr. landed a massive dunk, forcing DeMarcus Cousins to make a business decision. That’s what that game will be remembered for, but Smith Jr. also had to accept a 7-of-20 shooting night and ZERO free-throw attempts because of no-calls like what you see below.
Even though there are plenty of other examples of Smith Jr. being hosed by the refs this season, I’ll end with this one. This play happened just a few nights ago in the Mavericks’ 115-111 road victory against the Charlotte Hornets. As Smith Jr. drives into Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Dwight Howard comes in from behind to swat the ball out of bounds. Which is totally legal! What isn’t legal, though, is throwing your entire body into an opponent’s back while trying to get that block.
For what it’s worth, Smith Jr. was actually — and rightfully — rewarded with eight free-throw attempts in that game. He went 7-of-8 and hit some big ones in the fourth quarter to help seal the game. That was a glimpse of what we should be seeing more often as the season progresses.
At N.C. State last year, Smith Jr. shot 46-percent from the field and 51-percent on two-point shots alone. He also averaged 6.3 free-throw attempts per game. With the Mavericks this season, Smith Jr. is currently shooting 39-percent from the field and 43-percent on two-point shots, and as mentioned earlier, he’s only attempting a little over two free-throws per game. There’s always a learning curve with rookies, but you could argue Smith Jr. would be averaging closer to his college numbers if he were getting calls.
This may seem like quibbling. NBA officials are human beings like the rest of us, but given the number of “clutch games” the Mavs have played in so far this season (they lead the NBA with 28), it’s actually negatively affecting the Dallas Mavericks’ record.
Rising tension between NBA players and officials has been a big topic of discussion lately. Fortunately for everyone involved, Smith Jr. has a very calm demeanor, and you’ll hardly ever see him complaining about a no-call. If he does voice his disagreement, it’s very quick and then he’s on to the next play. He’s doing things the right way right now. Let’s hope that his patience eventually pays off.