The Dallas Mavericks have gone 9-3 over the last 12 games and much of that success is because one certain ruthless and toothless player is playing great ball.
In case you need a reminder, the season hasn’t always been going well for our Dallas Mavericks. Going 2-7 over the first nine games, the Mavs started poorly. But things improved from there. Over the last 12 games the Dallas Mavericks are 9-3, hold a winning record, and cling to a playoff spot were the postseason to begin today.
Why the sudden turnaround?
There’s a horde of reasons really. First, the starting lineup changed significantly and has taken a long time to gel. And if we’re being honest, we’re still waiting for that gelatin-ization. Second, the bench has been playing out of their minds and have been subsequently dominating opposing benches.
Luka Doncic also deserves his share of the credit. The NBA rookie of the month is the front-runner for Rookie of the Year honors and is transitioning to the NBA faster than anyone could have imagined.
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But flying under the radar is the evolution of Dennis Smith Jr. In just his second season, DSJ has been regarded by many as a below average defender. Part of it is based on his size (just 6’3” 195lbs) and some of it effort (he clearly prioritized offense in his rookie year). This year is different. Specifically, the past five games are different.
Over that stretch DSJ has averaged 1.8 steals, turning it into 18 points and a 105.6 defensive rating. His tenacity is impossible to ignore and effort is no longer a concern. All of this came to a head on Sunday night against the west-leading Los Angeles Clippers. After diving on a loose ball DSJ fell victim to one of Patrick Beverley’s rogue elbows. The elbow, acting on its own free will, independent of Beverly’s sportsmenship, proceeded to knock out one of Smith’s front teeth.
Before running to the locker room to fix the grill, DSJ won the Dallas Mavericks a jump ball. Not only that, but not soon after, he rejoined his team playing a critical role in the victory by way of … wait for it … defense.
If you were like me you wondered when the season began how DSJ would respond to Luka Doncic’s celebrity status. Could he handle playing second fiddle to a rookie? Would the two be able to play together? Would they fight over the ball?
While DSJ has had better offensive stretches, he’s never shown the kind of defensive tenacity that earned him the nickname “ruthless toothless”. He may not be getting the offensive touches he did last season but instead of pouting or demanding the ball more, he’s going and getting the ball.
This is the side of DSJ we all wanted to see and it’s making him a star and irreplaceable part to this Dallas Mavericks team.
- Published on 12/04/2018 at 23:01 PM
- Last updated at 12/04/2018 at 15:46 PM