Dennis Smith Jr.
The 2017 ninth overall draft pick, originally drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, has gotten off to a difficult start this season, but this is nothing new for him.
Prior to the NBA, Smith overcame an ACL injury that caused him to miss his entire senior high school season at Trinity Christian School. Later, after having a successful first season with the Mavericks (which involved some minor injuries here and there), he then had to deal with a play-style transition. The change required more off-ball work, once the Mavericks drafted Luka Dončić with the third overall pick in the 2018 Draft.
After being dissatisfied with his role changing in Dallas as well as issues with coach Rick Carlisle, the Mavericks dealt Smith to the New York Knicks in the controversial trade which involved Kristaps Porzingis. This past offseason DSJ once again had obstacles to clear, a recovery from back surgery followed by an unrelated back strain right before training camp began.
When DSJ recovered from these setbacks, it was obvious that he was not right because. The usually reliable scorer was missing a majority of his shots and could not get into a rhythm during any of the games. To make matters worse, DSJ’s step-mother was ill at the start of the regular season, which likely also contributed to his performance. As mentioned earlier, having difficult starts is nothing new to Smith.
Even with all that has happened to DSJ, he is a competitor at heart and always looks to make a comeback. Smith mitigates the Knicks Achilles Heel on offense as a quick and explosive point guard with a natural ability to either drive the paint or create his own shot.
This type of play is what Dennis has been known for throughout his entire basketball career. According to Mike Schmitz’s “Breaking Down the 2017 NBA Draft’s Loaded Guard Corps” on DSJ prior to his draft night, he was “an improved shooter, powerful penetrator, and explosive leaper, Smith can go get you a bucket late [in the] clock.”
Coaches and scouts had high expectations for DSJ prior to draft night because of these traits. However, these same coaches and scouts were concerned about his ability to defend (still an issue today), because he tends to lose focus or fails to get into a good defensive position.
Before the 2017 draft, there was controversy about whether the New York Knicks should draft Frank or DSJ. And yet somehow in a strange turn of events, they ended up with both, which leads me to how they can coexist