With Dirk Nowitzki’s NBA career winding down with each season, the Dallas Mavericks need another franchise player to take over as the face of the team.
The Mavs believe that player can be young point guard Dennis Smith Jr.
They selected the 20-year-old with the ninth pick in this year’s draft and he’s already showed signs of becoming a star in the NBA.
Smith produced his best performance of his rookie season in Dallas’ recent win over the New Orleans Pelicans as he recorded his first career triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.
The display from the youngster drew huge praise from head coach Rick Carlisle who believes he can potentially go down as one of the team’s greatest ever players.
“We drafted him because we think he can be a great player and one of the best players ever to play in a Mavericks uniform,” Carlisle said, per Earl Sneed.
Smith has been showered with positive words by his coach and the entire Mavericks organization throughout the season and he’s responding well to it.
He certainly showed the huge potential he has in Friday night’s win in New Orleans by becoming the third-youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double behind fellow rookie Lonzo Ball and LeBron James while joining Jason Kidd as the only players in franchise history to accomplish such a feat.
Despite his big night, however, the first-year guard is looking for ways to improve and grow his game.
“It feels great since we won, but I almost had a quadruple-double. I had a lot of turnovers. But my teammates picked me up, and they told me to keep playing. My coaches said the same thing, so they showed confidence in me to play through mistakes. That just gave me extra confidence to go out there and do my thing,” Smith said.
Carlisle likes the attitude that the North Carolina State product is showing and believes that his acknowledgment of the things he needs to work on is a sign of his development as a player.
“It’s a great sign that he’s really critical of his turnovers, ’cause those are an example of another important event that happened,” Carlisle echoed. “I spent some time with him this morning watching some things that he needs to clean up. And he’s understanding that, which is a huge step.”
Smith is averaging steady numbers of 13.7 points, 4.2 assists and 4.1 rebounds per game this year and the Mavericks are invested in him as their star player for the future.
The early signs have been positive and he will only get better with more experience and become the cornerstone of the franchise.