NBA

Mark Cuban says Dennis Smith Jr. is "the fastest player in the NBA"

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The Dallas Mavericks may have taken the biggest steal of this year's draft by selecting the athletic Dennis Smith Jr.

The point guard was surprisingly taken with the number nine pick when he was initially scheduled to go top five.

Many teams passed on him but their loss will certainly be Dallas' gain on the evidence of what he's shown so far.

After an impressive Summer League outing, the 19-year-old was in great form during the pre-season and made his eagerly anticipated regular-season debut last night.

Unfortunately, he was unable to prevent the Mavs suffering an opening night 117-111 home loss to the Atlanta Hawks but put on a good individual performance nonetheless.

His main attribute is his athleticism and he already has a terrific highlight reel of dunks but it took him just 32 seconds to showcase it on the NBA stage as head coach Rick Carlisle called a play for him on their first possession of the game.

The dynamic guard caught a lob pass from Wesley Matthews and soared to the rim to throw down a ferocious two-handed alley-oop dunk.

Another of Smith's strengths is his speed across the court. The pace at which he plays is something the Mavericks have been crying out for and is crucial in this current era.

Owner Mark Cuban has been so impressed with the speed of the youngster that he made a hugely bold statement when comparing him to other quick players in the league.

"He's the fastest player in the NBA. Not even close," he said, according to ESPN's Tim McMahon.

When asked if he's faster than Russell Westbrook or John Wall, Cuban replied: “I would bet.”

That's extremely high praise for the former North Carolina State man and it's no secret that Cuban and the Mavericks organisation think so highly of him.

They believe he can take over from veteran Dirk Nowitzki as the face of the franchise and lead the team back to winning ways.

“He’s a special athlete,” Nowitzki said. “We’re gonna have a lot of fun watching him hopefully for a long, long time.”

Smith posted 16 points and 10 assists against the Hawks, becoming the youngest player in league history (19 years, 327 days) to debut with a points/assists double-double.

He has also been tipped by his fellow draft class to win Rookie of the Year and is certainly among the favourites to scoop the honour.

The Mavs have a potential star on their hands and the future of franchise appears to be very bright.

Topics:
Southwest Division
Western Conference
NBA
Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki

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