After logging a pair of impressive performances in the Las Vegas summer league, has Dennis Smith Jr. secured his place as point guard of the future for Dallas?
Smith acclimated himself to the summer league atmosphere with 14 points, 7 rebounds and 6 assists in his debut. The buzz was growing and Dallas Mavericks fans enjoyed a follow-up performance in which Smith logged 25 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, both games resulting in victory.
The efficiency and talent displayed by Smith during his first two performances presents an interesting conundrum: Should the Mavs continue to log minutes on their starting point guard in July? Let’s begin by looking at the pros and cons.
Postseason award contention
Assuming Smith could open the season in rookie of the year contention is arguably a bold prediction. But when you evaluate many of the league’s qualifying talents, along with their opportunity to log minutes and shot attempts, it’s much within the realm of possibility Smith could play himself into ROY contention.
Smith was drafted with expectations of being the team’s starting point guard on opening night and remains among a select few rookie point guards with such opportunity. Shutting him down now could be a preventative measure ensuring Smith to have the best opportunity to enter the season fully healthy and mentally prepared for enduring an 82-game season, which he has yet to experience.
Fewer opportunities for injury
Injuries are a part of sports, regrettably. Sitting out one game versus another does not alleviate the chance of getting hurt. However, resting the rookie point guard on which the Mavericks used their highest draft pick since acquiring Robert Traylor could help ensure Smith at least trots out for the fans on opening night of the regular season.
We’ve already witnessed a highly-touted rookie point guard suffer an ankle sprain on a team that can’t seem to get its first-year players on the floor. It would be opportunistic if season ticket holders had a chance to witness the Mavs potential point guard of the future in Dallas during a game at the American Airlines Center.
Curiosity entering preseason
Although the Mavs are expected to open their preseason on Thursday Oct. 5 in Orlando, Dallas returns to host the Magic the following Monday night at the AAC. Smith on the sideline in Vegas creates a potential opportunity to have more fans filling preseason seats in Dallas waiting for a glimpse of their first-round pick.
With each performance it’s apparent Smith is growing more comfortable in his role with Dallas. The talent pool in summer competition continues to grow despite losing young attractions such as Brandon Ingram and Markelle Fultz. Summer league offers many an opportunity to build momentum heading into the regular season and it appears that is where Smith is heading based on his recent performances.
Establishing team chemistry
The Dallas Mavericks have a unique summer league roster. Unique in the sense Dorian Finney-Smith and Yogi Ferrell each spent stretches in the starting lineup last season while Nicholas Brussino made 54 appearances for Dallas.
Despite the difficult task of following up an undefeated Mavs roster from Orlando, Smith Jr. has an opportunity to develop on-court chemistry with teammates he’ll likely play alongside this fall. Spending the full summer circuit with young, experienced Mavs contributors offers an early chance at building camaraderie. Specifically, among young players on the roster.