North Carolina State freshman Dennis Smith, Jr. was projected to be a top–10 NBA pick, less than two years after suffering a major knee injury in high school. The Dallas Mavericks ultimately took him No. 9 overall.
The 19-year-old Smith still showed up to Raleigh with lofty expectations and didn't disappoint, leading all freshman in the Atlantic Coast Conference in points. He also led the conference in assists and ranked second in steals. Smith was named the ACC newcomer and freshman of the year.
Those impressive stats didn't translate into wins, as the Wolfpack finished 15–17 and were blown out by 20 points five different times.
Smith became the first top–10 pick out of NC State since Tom Gugliotta was selected with the No. 6 pick by the Washington Wizards in 1992 draft.
Dennis Smith, Jr. scouting report
Stats: 18.1 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 6.2 APG, 35.9 3P%, 45.5 FG%
Bio: After being rated as a five-star recruit out of Trinity Christian School in Fayetteville, N.C., Smith enrolled at NC State in January 2016 but didn’t play that season while recovering from a torn ACL. He suited up for the Wolfpack in 2016-17 and quickly established himself as one of the ACC’s best guards. Smith led NC State to a stunning road win over Duke in January and was named the conference’s freshman of the year.
Strengths: Smith’s most intriguing trait is his athleticism, and there’s little doubt he’s regained most, if not all, of the run-and-jump explosiveness that made him such a coveted high school prospect. (He reportedly recorded a 48-inch vertical leap at a workout with the Lakers earlier this month.) Smith is an adept scorer who does well creating offense off the dribble and shows major potential as a playmaker.
Weaknesses: The weakest point of Smith’s game is his defensive intensity, although it’s possible NC State’s sluggish play overall contributed to his effort on that end of the floor. He also lacks favorable length for a lead guard. Smith’s jumper isn’t broken (he sank 36% of his 153 three-point attempts last season), but he’s streaky, and it remains to be seen whether he can maintain his shooting range beyond the deeper NBA line.
- Jeremy Woo
Dallas has been in search of a franchise point guard for a long time, and hopes Smith will be that. He’s an explosive athlete and talented scorer who can make plays off the dribble and comes with a ton of upside. This is great value for the Mavericks, who gain a legitimate long-term asset as they continue to prepare for the post-Dirk era. In a weaker draft, Smith might have been a top-five talent. – Jeremy Woo
Fast facts about Dennis Smith, Jr:
Birthday: November 25, 1997
Position: Point guard
Weight: 195 lbs.
Hometown: Fayetteville, N.C.
High School: Trinity Christian School