How Dennis Smith Jr is making the Mavericks relevant again

LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Dennis Smith Jr.
LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 17: Dennis Smith Jr. /

Dennis Smith Jr is quickly making the Mavericks more relevant, even if the record isn’t reflecting that. His dunk contest performance is just the beginning.

Dallas Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr has been a hot topic in the NBA during the last two weeks, and rightly so. The Mavs’ Phenom recently took part in two All-Star Weekend events – the Rising Stars Challenge and the Dunk Contest.

There was not much to love or hate with at the Rising Stars game. Smith Jr quietly put together a well-rounded box score of 7 points, 6 assists, and 4 rebounds. However, the dunk contest gave the country a reason to know his name…

Despite not even getting to the finals of the Dunk Contest, Dennis Smith generated by far the most buzz that night. After getting slighted on his first dunk, Smith Jr dropped what might have been the best dunk of the night.

The slam sent the hoops world into a frenzy. No one could get enough of the replay, and the 50 it received was absolutely warranted.

The national attention that came with participating in the dunk contest was a huge boost for the Mavericks organization. But how exactly is something that does not count going to make a struggling team more relevant?

Steps to Relevancy

The first step to relevancy in the NBA is exposure. If no one sees you, how will they know what you are capable of? Dennis Smith Jr represented the Mavs in the dunk contest, and the whole country got to see – many people for the first time – what is brewing in Dallas.

Suddenly, everyone wants to see more. More highlights, more clicks, more views. It all benefits the Mavericks.

Dallas’ first game back from the all-star break against the Los Angeles Lakers was nationally televised, and one of the reasons for the country-wide broadcast was the attention put on DSJ.

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Sure, Lonzo Ball coming back from injury helped fuel some of the excitement. Yet thousands of people wanted to see Smith Jr in action for the first time since he lit up the dunk contest. Thousands more than would usually be willing to watch a tanking squad square up against a mediocre LA cast.

Once you get solid exposure, the next step to relevancy is production. Smith Jr finished the game vs the Lakers with 13 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds. Not great, but not bad either.

There is no denying DSJ’s current shooting slump. However, his potential has been evident even during the rough patches. We are still seeing Dennis produce while he is on the court.

Since production is such a paramount piece to the ladder of relevancy, Smith’s efforts in the dunk contest are that much more important to boosting his confidence. People want to see 50s on the board during a dunk contest, and he delivered. That alone gives him a pedestal.

The final step to securing relevancy in the NBA is consistency. We have not seen Smith Jr reach levels of consistency yet. Nevertheless, he has given us signs that he can get there. For the Mavs, that is all they can ask for.

Impact on team relevancy

The Mavs are in a rebuilding state. New talent is coming through the ranks, replacing those who came before. Dennis Smith Jr is leading that charge, and his athletic play style is making people enjoy watching Dallas basketball again.

Instead of not thinking about the Mavs at all, now people are wondering “will that Dallas rookie get back to the dunk contest?” After all, you know you are doing something right if fans are wishing they could have seen a new dunk in the finals.

Just think of how much of an impact this year’s dunk contest had on the Mavericks’ organization. Dallas was represented in the event for the first time in 21 years.

Forget about the millions watching the dunk contest on television – how about the all-stars themselves? Many fail to consider that the best players in the world are sitting courtside watching everything unfold, and DSJ put on a show.

Although not major, there are nonetheless Free Agency implications involved. A star might have seen Smith Jr throw down his reverse-360-between-the-legs slam and think “…hey, I’d like to play with that guy.”

Next: Why the Mavs should target Aaron Gordon in free agency

At the very least, Dennis Smith Jr. gained a lot of respect from around the league, and that is worth its weight in gold for a Mavs team looking to become relevant again.