Dennis has improved but his effect on the team is lacking. All Stats in this page are from Basketball Reference.
When Dennis Smith Jr was drafted by Dallas out of NC State, we loved how he was a score first point guard with decent ball handling and passing ability. It was something the Mavs needed so badly. Most importantly, his athleticism was unparalleled. He seemed so comparable to Derrick Rose.
His first season proved that his play style was very similar to the former MVP while also averaging similar numbers as Rose in his rookie season on fewer minutes per game. It wasn’t far fetched to believe he could take the next step forward as a shooter and defender in order to help this team win more games.
With the arrival of Luka Doncic, the play style of the Mavs changed and Dennis hasn’t adapted as well as we may have hoped… or has he?
As a shooter, DSJ has taken big strides. His field goal percentage and 3pt field goal percentage are up from 39.5% to 44.3% and 31.3% to 37.5% recently. While his free throw percentage is certainly less than desirable for a point guard at 68.4%, his free throw rate has gone up from 18.8% to 24.2%. All these are positive signs for the athletic point guard.
In addition, his defense has taken a huge step. His steals per game average has increased from 1.0 to 1.4 and his steal percentage has increased from 1.7% to 2.4%, which happens to be the highest on the team.
As mentioned, his free throw shooting still needs to improve and so does his plus/minus per 100 possessions. When on the court, DSJ’s plus minus stands at -4.7, which is better than the -7.4 last year, but it seems the Mavs are significantly better when he’s off the court as the On-Off plus/minus is a staggering -9.6.
Clearly, Smith’s rating left something to be desired and is a legitimate cause of concern for the team and fans, but maybe that could improve if he… became a 3 and D PG. Smith is currently assisted on 71.8% of his 3 point shots, a shot which me makes almost 38% of the time. In fact, he shoots the corner 3 about 7% of the time and converts an insane 57.1% on those attempts.
Obviously DSJ has found it hard to play like himself with the addition of Luka, but his impact can be felt. He’s improved his 3 point shooting tremendously and his defense is continuing to get better. Throw in his ridiculous athleticism and it’s hard to convince yourself that he can’t be a cornerstone for this franchise for years to come.
The biggest issue is Dennis likes to facilitate as well even if he isn’t as good as Doncic making it hard to divvy who handles the ball. If Carlisle can’t find the right way to utilize DSJ in this Luka-led offense, it might be time to consider trading the former lottery pick. The next slides are four places he could end up.