NBA

Dennis Smith Jr..

Rookie Dennis Smith Jr. already has a game resembling Russell Westbrook

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The Dallas Mavericks believe they have finally found the player that can replace Dirk Nowitzki as the future face of the franchise in rookie Dennis Smith Jr.

The Mavs pulled off one of the steals of this year's draft when the 19-year-old surprisingly fell to them with the number nine pick when he was initially expected to go in the top five.

After an impressive outing in the Summer League, Smith has begun his NBA career in the same vein and hasn't looked overawed.

He has already put his ridiculous athleticism on display and will wow fans throughout the year.

Comparison

His playing style has drawn comparisons to MVP Russell Westbrook due to his speed across the court and athletic ability.

According to owner Mark Cuban, he's now easily the fastest player in the league.

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

Memphis Grizzlies v Dallas Mavericks

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

But it's easy to see why he's being likened to the Oklahoma City Thunder star already.

He plays at a similar pace and is a menace in the open floor. The way he blows by opponents and explodes to the rim for dunks reminds you of Russ instantly.

His dynamism brings an extra dimension to the Mavericks offence and gives them something they've been lacking for years.

The point guard also plays with a confidence on the floor that resembles the eight-time All-Star.

"He's a confident young man," said Dirk Nowitzki. "He knows that he's good. He knows the sky is the limit. As long as you're confident and you're humble about it -- which he's shown, he's shown that he's ready to work and listen -- I think he's going to be great."

Recognition

Smith earned his first NBA win by inspiring Dallas to overcome the Memphis Grizzlies 103-94 last night.

He posted 19 points, five assists and just one turnover in the victory over the previously undefeated Grizzlies. He also shot an efficient 8-of-12 from the field.

Atlanta Hawks v Dallas Mavericks

Head coach Rick Carlisle has not hesitated to place a huge amount of responsibility on the youngster's shoulders as he knows he can handle it.

"He's a pretty calm person by nature," Carlisle said. "He's very confident. He processes things and has a good sense of just how long five or six seconds is at the end of the clock.

"He understands that the defence will break down in a split second and he's got the quickness to get by people. Some of the things he's doing to generate baskets, fouls or shots for guys is a dimension we've never had on this team."

As well as members of his own team, the North Carolina State product has drawn plaudits from peers in his position.

Golden State Warriors superstar Stephen Curry said: "Super-athletic guard that knows how to play the game. I think that's the most underrated aspect of his game, just the way he sees the floor, the way he tries to get his teammates involved. And he can shoot it.

"A lot of people fall in love with the way he can high-fly and play above the rim at times, just his explosiveness, but the thing that's going to help him be a long-lasting pro and probably an All-Star one day in this league is his ability to play that five-man basketball and get other guys involved and use his strengths to open up looks for other teammates."

Memphis Grizzlies guard Mike Conley, who squared up against Smith last night, said: "I love his game. He plays with a great pace, very patient. He's going to be something special in the league. They've got a good one."

Atlanta Hawks v Dallas Mavericks

Smith is among the favourites to win Rookie of the Year and with the trust placed in him to run the Mavericks offence, he has the perfect platform and environment to develop into a star in the league.

"I've been doing it since I was 6. It's the highest level now, but I've worked to be on this level," Smith said. "I deserve this opportunity, and now I've got to own that and earn my keep."

Topics:
Southwest Division
Western Conference
NBA
Dallas Mavericks
Dirk Nowitzki

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