An Introduction: Dennis Smith Jr.

By Jack Drapkin

For all the hype that Dennis Smith Jr., had coming out of high school, it sure seems lost after recovering from a torn ACL and playing for a downtrodden NC State program.

And while this is understandable, it is lost on me. He lead his team in scoring and assists (18 and 6 respectively) and regained much of the explosiveness that he showed pre-injury.

Now two weeks ago, I made the case the case the Knicks should go with De’Aaron Fox, and with more information now Frank Ntilikina would also be a great fit.

However, and I’m going to admit my bias here, Dennis Smith Jr., is the third best Point Guard prospect. In a year where the guys rated ahead of him, Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz have Hall of Fame potential, that means something. In fact, I think Dennis has as high a ceiling as anyone else in the draft class.

What makes Smith so special?

Scoring and Playmaking. Simple.

There are many players who can do one of these at the NBA level, in fact, everyone who’s played in the NBA has been a great scorer at some point in their career. However, the ability to do both at an elite level is rare, though less rare than in year’s prior. (See Westbrook, Russell, and Harden, James.)

But the guy who Smith has reminded me of the most since I saw him play in high school has been Derrick Rose. Yes that Derrick Rose, youngest league MVP ever before the knee injuries Rose.

There are certain things that simply cannot be taught. The uncanny ability to explode to the rim, hang and finish, was the stalwart of Rose’s young career and should be for Smith as well.

Areas of Concern?

How about defense and the ACL injury he spent the year and a half recovering from.

For all of his straight-line explosiveness to the basket and ability to use dribble moves to get by defenders, he struggles at times staying in front of opposing guards. He also needs work as a team defender, understanding how and when to help off his man. At the least, he needs to improve at the latter to contribute to better teams.

Injury wise he tore the ACL/PCL of his left knee, his plant leg, his senior year of high school. That will be a concern for some talent evaluators moving forward as he does have such a similar playing style to Rose.

Look Dennis Smith Jr. is one of my favorite players in this draft class, he is exciting, competitive and tough. (See 32 points in Cameron Indoor over Duke in the win).

Bottom Line, if your team drafts Smith come June feel happy, you got yourself a playmaker.

Dennis Smith Roundtable Discussion Transcript

Jack: What’s going on guys, Jack here today discussing Dennis Smith Jr with a little bit of a different style video, a round table discussion. I’m sitting here with John, Jeremy, and Alex. We will be discussing Dennis Smith Jr as he moves into the NBA draft. Alex get us started a little bit on this conversation.

Alex: Alright guys so some questions I have for all of you about Dennis Smith – what about his offense stands out to you since his return from his torn ACL?

Jack: Right, so for me it’s been that his explosion has been there. That’s one thing I’d guess you’d have a concern with, but it’s definitely been there. The athleticism, explosion, the ability to get to the basket and finish through contact, but also finish strong. It has definitely been noticeable for me with Dennis Smith’s ability.

John: So John here guys and what I think I’ve seen which has been a big improvement is for Dennis Smith is just that he looks a lot more comfortable rather than from the beginning of the year. He’s not forcing so many shots now. He’s shooting a lot better. He’s dishing the ball a lot better and I think going forward for an NBA team, I think he’ll do just fine as a backup PG to come off the bench starting off.

Jeremy: Hey what’s up guys, it’s Jeremy here. One thing that really stood out to me is that the first game of the year for him in addition to coming back from injury. Like John said now that he’s comfortable, he’s actually passing the ball, running the point, and he’s looking to be a dominate PG going into ACC play and eventually the NBA draft.

Alex: Alright is he a player any of you guys can see an NBA team building around or is he be a piece an NBA team uses that a star would be being built around?

John: Yeah I think that like I said he is definitely going to be someone who will be a piece of the puzzle, but he’s not going to be a cornerstone player. Could he? He’s shown flashes of maybe being a cornerstone player, but I think so far from what we’ve seen from him I don’t think that potential has been reached just yet.

Jack: I think that Dennis and I’m going to disagree with you to an extent here. I think that Dennis Smith on his own could be a very good player and if he’s the best player on your team I think that team could eventually be a playoff team, but do I think that’s a team that’s going to make it to the Western Conference or Eastern Conference finals? No, I think that he probably needs someone as good as him or someone slightly better than him. Going back a little bit and talking about his adjustment period I think the fact that he enrolled at NC State midway through his senior year and got that semester in at NC State really helped his adjustment period and definitely helped as John was saying, he looks more comfortable on the court and I think it’s definitely been showing in recent weeks where his assist and shooting numbers have increased.

Alex: Will he be a starter or an all-star do you guys think?

Jeremy: I don’t think initially. I think he’s more or less going to be someone that comes off the bench. Possibly if he’s on a better team behind someone like Kyrie or obviously like Lillard. He has someone to follow. I’d say for years to come he’s definitely going to be one of the better rookies.

Jack: Now realistically he won’t get drafted by a team like the Cavs or Warriors.

Jeremy: That’s assuming. We don’t know how he’s going to go yet. Like we have so many (good) people in the NCAA.

Jack: True. It’s a very deep draft class this year. I’d say someone like Dennis Smith is probably going to go in the lottery.

Jeremy: Of course.

John: Probably.

Jack: And so I would say that there are a few teams (that may target him in the lottery) because at the same time Dennis Smith is a very intriguing PG prospect, but there’s also as we’re going to get into in a little bit here, very good other alternatives at the PG spot with Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz, and others will get into a few of them later. There also aren’t as many teams that need PGs in the NBA.

John: There’s a lot of talented PGs

Jack: And so the question is for Dennis Smith is there going to be a team that..it’s almost might be a blessing in the sense that he’s going to go to a team that will probably have a PG already in place so, as you guys have been saying he’ll get to come off the bench at least initially, but do I think he can handle starting for a team like the Sixers, Pelicans, or Nets? The Nets won’t have a pick rather.

John: Right.

Jack: Could he start early on as a youngster? Yes, but I think it would be better if he came off the bench for sure.

John: I agree. I don’t know if we want to talk about team fit right this second but, I think a team that maybe could use him is maybe the Detroit Pistons and I know they just gave Reggie Jackson a monster deal.

Jack: Mmm. Interesting.

John: I think he’d be great for them coming off the bench and a really solid second option with Drummond there. Ya know Reggie Jackson being the primary scoring options still, but I don’t really believe in him long-term and I think Dennis Smith could be groomed into being that long-term player next to Andre Drummond and make them a playoff team for years to come.

Jeremy: So, uh John, do you think it’s more important for him to go somewhere where he’ll get more minutes and more exposure on the court or better for him to come off the bench to a star that he can learn from because this one and deal he isn’t going to have much time on the court in the NCAA. He’s going straight to NBA.

John: Yeah I think it’ll be better if he comes off the bench, learns a little bit more and he doesn’t have to be the star player. He can be the secondary option there.

Jack: Yeah. Couple more teams I may add since we got into team fit. Maybe the Sacramento Kings, though I wouldn’t want to go into that quagmire of a situation and be involved there. It could be a good fit for him just seeing that they’re in need of a PG. And then also if you look at a team like Orlando who could definitely use the scoring punch and I think that’s something that let’s talk about here a little bit with Dennis Smith- does he do enough besides scoring? Because with Orlando they need scoring and so I think he could be a very good fit there, but in terms of him as an overall player- does he do enough besides the score the ball?

Jeremy: Well yeah like he’s done recently. Ya know, he came straight off the first few games scoring a bunch and then he’d have a few games where he wouldn’t do as well. Now he’s actually learning to score and pass the ball. Like obviously you can’t compare him to Westbrook, but ya know he’s putting up high mid 20s points and he’s getting out almost ten assist. So if he can create offense while getting offense himself then it’s a good fit.

John: Yeah I think Orlando is also an interesting team to talk about as a fit for him because I’m a believer in Elfriid Payton and I think he could be potentially their PG of the future there and they drafted Mario Hezonja. But I don’t know if Dennis Smith would really work there. I don’t know if they’d want to then bring Payton off the bench and start Dennis Smith. Then you would have two offensive heavy PGs.

Jack: I mean Payton is definitely more of a defensive guard and so yeah they have Fournier out there and so it could definitely make sense in terms of him (Smith) starting out on the bench. Dennis Smith if you look at him as a player he has a lot of potential and as Jeremy was just saying he’s been developing the passing elements of his game and I’ve seen him make several nice passes over the last couple weeks it’s going to be important that his development continues into the ACC portion of play here as competition gets more difficult but I think in terms of Dennis Smith as a player he’s a dynamite scorer but, there are other aspects to his game. We haven’t even really discussed the defensive aspects of his game so far which definitely there are some question marks. Whether he can cover 1-on-1. Whether he can cover the oppositions PG. Whether he needs to be kind of hidden on that end of the court on a shooter or not. Dennis Smith’s scoring ability is going to get him drafted in the lottery and make him a productive NBA player. It’s just a question of how high up can he reach with other facets of his game developing, but guys that’s what we think of Dennis Smith. Let us know in the comments below what you think and please remember to subscribe if you want to hear more videos like this one. Thanks for listening.