After a monster Summer League where he showed elite potential, Dennis Smith Jr. has had an NBA season where he’s looked like a rookie. Coach Rick Carlisle put the ball in his hands — his usage rate is right there with guys who are offensive focal points like Jusuf Nurkic or Lou Williams — and he’s shown flashes with passing and scoring. However, his shot has not been good (like most rookies), and with that the game has not opened up for him (and that has led to more turnovers than the Mavs want to see). It’s a process.
Friday night, the rookie showed some real progress.
Smith had the first triple-double of his career — 21 points, 10 assists, 10 rebounds, to lead the Mavericks past the Pelicans. To start the game the Pelicans went under picks, but Smith was 5-of-7 from three and made them pay. New Orleans adjusted, and that opened up the drives for Smith, who fearlessly attacked the rim. He created for himself and others.
Consider it progress, a sign of what could be to come.