Creating Happy Summer Memories with Seth Curry

DALLAS – When Seth Curry thought about developing a summer basketball camp for kids, he knew he wanted to challenge them to tap into their mental capacity, not just into their athletic abilities.

Thus, in order to become one of the 100 kids chosen to participate in the free one-day Seth Curry Jr. NBA Camp, the campers had to submit an essay on why they should be the one chosen for this very special camp. Hundreds of applications were filed and read by Curry, who personally hand-picked the final 100 kids.

“I wanted to put on a back-to-school clinic for underprivileged kids to come out here for a free day of basketball to learn from me and the great coaches here,” Curry said. “The kids had to write a short essay on why they wanted to come to the camp, and my team and I read through them and picked out the 100 kids that were going to come.“

“I feel like I have a connection to each one of these kids who came, I know a little bit about their story. Not really by their face, but just reading their essays and knowing what some of the kids are going through and why they wanted to be here and how much they love basketball.”

The camp, held September 9 at the Dallas Mavericks’ practice facilities, is dear to Curry’s heart. His father, Dell Curry, played in the NBA from 1986-2002 and was known for hosting basketball camps for kids.

“My dad put on a camp for kids like this every year for pretty much his whole 16-year career, so I was able to watch what he did and wanted to have one of these (camps) myself growing up,” Curry said. “I came to camps like these as a kid and it was a lot of fun. They were some of my greatest memories growing up.”

“I’m fortunate to be able to flip the roles and be able to teach these kids.”

Shortly after the camp started, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle popped in and spoke to the kids. He also invited kids to tell the group of campers why they wanted to be a part of Curry’s camp.

“Coach Carlisle was talking to the kids and one kid came up and was explaining how he wanted to come so bad because he wasn’t able to do anything this summer with his family because they had to move and were looking for a house, so they weren’t able to go on vacation,” Curry said. “I was fortunate enough to put on this camp and it’s probably his bright spot of the summer before he goes back to school.”

The importance of the Jr. NBA Camp isn’t lost on Carlisle, who doubles as the president of the NBA Coaches Association.

“The Jr. NBA is a really important initiative in the league office,” Carlisle said. “It’s really important to the Coaches Association and it’s great to see guys like Seth Curry taking the lead and having a camp like this.”

“When I spoke to a few of the kids, their essay topics were wide-ranging, but all very sincere. So it’s a really cool thing.”

Ben Hunt, the manager of camps and community basketball for the Mavs, said it was cool for Curry to be thought-provoking and have the kids create an essay to gain entry into the camp.

“Having a clinic like this with Seth and the Mavs Basketball Academy coaches is just a wonderful opportunity for the kids to be here with us at this world-class practice facility,” Hunt said. “And as part of the Jr. NBA, we can help them develop confidence, team work and have a lot of fun.”

“Each and every one of these kids came in with different experiences. They had to go through the application process, and obviously they did a wonderful job because they’re here. And it was tremendous, too, that Seth took the time to read each and every one of those essays, and now they’re here and they get this opportunity – it’s really special.”

At the camp, the kids learned everything from ball-handling, dribbling and passing skills, to the ideal form utilized to shoot a basketball.

“Another important part of the game now is playing without the basketball, and that’s agility,” Hunt said. “Using their foot work, getting some foot speed and being able to maneuver through defenses and be more comfortable with a ball in their hands when that time comes.”

“We have some kids here who may play the game. We have some kids here who this may be the first time they’ve picked up a basketball. But they love the Mavs and they love Seth Curry and they love what we’re doing.”

Curry loves the fact that he’s touching lives in a positive way, changing attitudes and making a lasting difference in the community.

“First of all, I just wanted them to have fun and have good memories,” Curry said. “You want to teach them drills and you want them to get better at basketball. But they’re at the age where they just want to have fun and just be around the kids and be around NBA players like myself, and have good memories. I just want them to go to school next week and tell their friends they had a good time at this camp, and that will be a success for me.”

Before headed back on the court to work with the kids, Curry mentioned the difficult process of narrowing that list down to 100 campers.

“It was going to be 100 kids no matter how many people applied or tried to come,” he said. “It was just me reading through whichever ones I liked. Some of the kids are going through hard times off the court with their family, some of the kids were explaining how much they love basketball and how bad they want to be here. It just depended on how they wrote it and what message they were trying to give off. There were a lot of great stories from the kids who are at this camp and I’m glad we could create this special day for them.”

Dennis Smith Jr. will play to prove his believers right; not to prove his naysayers wrong during rookie season

DALLAS — He was with the fifth point guard taken in June’s NBA Draft, watching helplessly as four players at his position went ahead of him. However, despite sliding in the draft and falling to the Dallas Mavericks with the ninth overall pick in the first round, rookie floor general Dennis Smith Jr. says he won’t play with a chip on his shoulders this upcoming season in order to prove his naysayers wrong.

Seeing the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers select Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball with the top two picks in June’s draft, respectively, Smith watched as a pair of players at his position were taken off the board immediately. The Sacramento Kings then grabbed former Kentucky standout De’Aaron Fox with the No. 5 overall pick for the third point guard taken in the first round. And after the New York Knicks opted to select Frenchman Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick, Smith says he was thankful the stage was set for him to land in Dallas.

“I’m ultra thankful. You know, everybody believes that they should be the first pick, but that’s not everyone’s destiny. It can’t be. You know, mathematically, that doesn’t add up. I got picked ninth, and I’m thankful for that,” Smith matter-of-factly said earlier this summer.

“It’s been great,” he added. “You know, I think it’s a blessing that I landed here, ’cause it’s such a winning program. Everyone wants to win and it’s a selfless mentality, and that’s what I’m all about. So, I think it’s a perfect fit for me. … I’m super excited. It was a lot of people taken in front of me, and everybody believes that they’re the best. I truly believe that I’m the best player, and I want to show it.”

Bouncing back from a torn ACL that cost him his senior season in high school, Smith dazzled last year with North Carolina State while showing no signs of the injury. He also turned heads during the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas back in July, giving Mavs fans a glimpse of what’s to come this season while leading his team to the semifinals of the tournament and a 5-1 record. But according to Smith, everything that he already has accomplished and will achieve this upcoming season can be attributed to the confidence he receives from his family and support system.

The 19-year-old became the first player to lead the ACC among freshmen in points and assists since Ed Cota during the ’96-97 season during his lone collegiate campaign, filling up the stat sheet last season with the Wolfpack to average 18.1 points, 4.6 rebounds and 6.2 assists. He also connected on 45.5 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from behind the three-point arc, making him an attractive prospect for the Dallas front office in the draft. From there, Smith averaged 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals in six games to earn a spot on the All-NBA Summer League First Team. And with the support of his hometown of Fayetteville, N.C., Smith says he’s confident he can carry that success over to his rookie season.

“You know, I was extremely motivated by my family,” Smith explained. “They all believed in me, and they knew that I could come back (from the injury) and be an even better player. And I came out and showed that. I’m just motivated to prove the people that believe in me right. There’s no chip (on my shoulders).

“Everybody is not able to make it to this point, especially where I’m from. So, me being able to come out and just play basketball at the highest level is a blessing. I’m thankful for that. Fayetteville, my family, I’m a product of my environment. You know, I chose the right path, and everybody wants to choose the right path. A lot of people that end up in the wrong things played basketball or football, and they’ve got the same aspirations as I have. And being able to come out and do it whenever they can’t, whether it’s by death or by prison, I think that’s a blessing. I feel a ton of pride representing where I’m from, everybody that can’t do it and my whole family. I take a lot of pride with that. … I think it’s more than just basketball with that. That’s the way I was raised to be as a man. And that’s a credit to my whole family, especially my father. And it just translates from being a man to basketball.”

Helping Kids DREAM BIG

Seth Curry launches the EverFi program at KIPP Middle School

Check out the EverFi program, an effort launched at KIPP Middle School in Dallas in part by the Seth Curry Foundation to promote the entrepreneurial spirit in local youth!

DALLAS – Jaylee Bradford now knows the value of being an entrepreneur.

Once the Venture Entrepreneurial Expedition program was explained to Bradford, the light bulb seemingly lit-up in the head of the KIPP Destiny Middle School student. The path to financial freedom became much clearer.

Thus, it didn’t take long for Bradford to map out a long-range plan.

“The Venture program is helping me understand how to start a business and it’s explaining to me what I need to do in order to successfully start my business,” Bradford said. “When I grow up I want to become a veterinarian and have my own clinic because I don’t want to have to do what other people tell me to do. I want to be a boss.”

The Dallas Mavericks and the Seth Curry Foundation launched the Venture Entrepreneurial Expedition program – the EverFi program — at KIPP Destiny Middle School in South Oak Cliff. The program is a new educational initiative designed to teach students to think about entrepreneurship when it comes to both business and life.

The program’s digital course uses case studies, personal development activities and interactive business simulations to teach important basic skills. Also, students will develop a personalized plan for their business, in addition to a road map for career and academic success.

KeJuan Weaver, the coach and athletic director at KIPP Destiny Middle School, pinches himself when thinking about the various levels of business the EverFi program has to offer his students.

“We’re really excited to have this program at our school,” Weaver said. “We love having the students able to relate to entrepreneurs in the community and able to practice some of the lessons and see those things come to life within the program.”

“It’s very interactive, they get to play with different models and see different things before they actually happen in real life so that they can have this background and prior knowledge when it comes time for them to do their own thing.”

Curry, a guard with the Mavs, was more than happy to get involved with a project that will help spark a young person’s imagination.

“It’s definitely something I wish I had growing-up myself,” Curry said.

“I took a few business courses and entrepreneurial classes at Duke and I always wanted to give back to the community.”

While speaking at KIPP Destiny Middle School, Curry went to the computers where the students were working, interacted with them and let them explain to him exactly what they were doing.

“You can see how much they’ve invested in it and work hard at it and try to learn as much as possible.”

Nesaa Milligan, one of the students at KIPP Destiny Middle School, has already seen the advantages of the EverFi program.

“The EverFi program is helping me build my standards on how I can be a better leader and how I can be what I want to be when I grow up,” Milligan said. “I want to be a photographer, so I want to own my own business.”

Another KIPP Destiny Middle School student, Antonio Hodges, has analyzed the program on a much more personal level.

“Since I have a disability, this program helps me to make sure that I take care of myself some more,” Hodges said. “I really want to be a singer and I want to inspire everyone that we should really take care of each other and help the world be a better place.”

Curry has been involved with a lot of basketball camps, including one with his brother – Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry — earlier this summer in South Korea. But he wanted to offer kids another slice of life besides basketball.

“I was looking for different things to do in the community,” Curry said. “We were just thinking of ways you can give back and get out there and get invested in the city of Dallas and the kids.”

“I’ve been running the camps now for a couple of years and I felt like we can grow a little bit and do some different things. I had an opportunity to work with the Mavs and with EverFi to do this venture and it just made sense for all of us.”

Rick Nielsen, a member of the Seth Curry Foundation, applauds what Curry is trying to accomplish in South Oak Cliff.

“Right now we want everybody to dream big, especially with what’s going on in the world right now,” Nielsen said. “We really want these kids to focus on their goals and know they can achieve anything.”

Curry wasn’t so sure if he located any future Mark Cubans or Bill Gates among the KIPP Destiny Middle School students.

“I don’t see why not,” Curry said. “They all started somewhere. They’ll learn at a young age that a lot of people don’t learn until they get out of college, or in college. It’s a great way for them to get a jump start on their education.

“Just going by and looking at some of the programs and reading it and having them explain what they were learning, it seemed like they were interested and they’re invested. And like I said, this is a great program and knowledge that you actually need and want growing up. I’m sure it’ll benefit these kids a great amount and I’m just happy to be a part of it.”

Weaver acknowledged that his students have been very inquisitive when it comes to soaking in all the education pertaining to the EverFi program.

“We’ve been in the program for about a week, and they’ve done really well,” Weaver said. “The only thing I’ve had to do is keep the conversation going once they finish because they’re really excited about it and they have so many questions.

“So my job as an educator is to just be that guide and help them out.”

Curry noted that Cuban has offered a lot of sage advice to him in regards to entrepreneurship. Advice that Curry found to be very productive when he spoke to the KIPP Destiny Middle School students.

“Being around (Cuban) during the season and talking to him about business ventures and entrepreneurial ways and just him telling me about his story, it’s very motivational in itself being around him,” Curry said. “He’s one to talk to you about anything that he went through, so I’m just trying to pass that same knowledge on.”

So what was the overriding message in Curry’s speech to the students?

“Just dream big,’’ he said. “Know what you have a passion for and have a set plan to make it happen, and just never give up.”

“I have a story myself of being an athlete who had many obstacles, so I’ll tell these kids the exact same thing. Off the court and being an entrepreneur, just persevere and do what you want to do.”

Mavs will monitor Dirk Nowitzki’s minutes closely in ’17-18 to preserve him throughout 20th season

DALLAS — He’s looking to return to his elite form after an injury-riddled 2016-17 season, playing in just 54 games last year. But in order to make sure 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki makes it through his 20th campaign unscathed, the Dallas Mavericks’ coaching staff may have to strictly manage his playing time this upcoming season.

Last season, Nowitzki battled through a nagging right Achilles strain to average 14.2 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. He also connected on 43.7 percent from the floor and 37.8 percent from three-point range, clocking 26.4 minutes per outing for the least amount of playing time since his rookie season. However, with Nowitzki set to embark on his 20th campaign with the team this season, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle may look to keep the 7-footer’s minutes low throughout the grueling 82-game schedule. And with hopes of preserving Nowitzki for a playoff run late in the season, Carlisle admits that the ageless superstar’s time on the court could continue to steadily decrease early in the schedule.

“We’ve got to try to notch it down a little bit,” Carlisle said last season while addressing Nowitzki’s playing time. “You know, I’d say mid-20s. … It would be good to get him to 26 (minutes per game). You know, it’s tricky, because if you play him too few minutes, he’ll never get into the flow of the game. And he’s very much a rhythm-and-flow player, so I have no concerns that we won’t be able to continue the transition and just try to lighten the load a little bit. It’s a deep roster, and there’s a lot of talented guys. There’s a lot of guys that can score. Our shooting, I think, is better in a lot of areas, and so we’ll be fine there.”

Averaging 37.7 minutes per game during the ’08-09 season, Nowitzki saw a steady slide in his playing time before it spiked to 32.9 minutes an outing in the ’13-14 campaign. Carlisle then managed to trim Nowitzki’s minutes under 30 during the ’14-15 season for the first time since he was a rookie, sending the future Hall of Famer out to the court an average of 29.6 minutes per outing during his 77 appearances. Nowitzki’s playing time went back up the following season to 31.5 minutes a game during 75 appearances in ’15-16. But after being forced to miss 25 of the first 30 games last season due to the injury, Nowitzki says he expects Carlisle and the coaching staff to keep him fresh for the stretch run of the schedule.

For his career, Nowitzki has averaged 34.9 minutes per game during his 19 seasons. The 2007 league MVP and 2011 Finals MVP also ranks seventh on the NBA’s all-time list in regular-season games played (1,394) and sixth in minutes logged (48,698), putting many miles on his legs in the process. Becoming the sixth scorer in NBA history to reach 30,000 career points last season, Nowitzki now sits just 1,159 points away from tying Wilt Chamberlain for fifth on the league’s all-time scoring list. However, the 39-year-old says he won’t ask for more playing time this season in order to reach more individual milestones.

“You know, I don’t really have a number in my head. That’s up to the coaches,” Nowitzki said while addressing his playing time entering this season. “I’m going to get ready for whatever it’s going to be and however it’s going to play out. I’m sure there’s some games where you go a little higher. I’m not sure what we’re doing on back-to-backs here and there, but I’m sure there’s going to be a little rest built in there. And you just have to wait and see how the season goes. … Hopefully I can still play effective minutes when I’m out there.”

Back-To-School Cool

DALLAS – As the principal of Dallas Skyline High School, Dr. Janice Lombardi is all about tone-setting for her thousands of students. Especially the tone that’s set on the first day of school.

And for Dr. Lombardi and the approximately 5,000 students who recently started the 2017-18 school year at Skyline, no tone was better set than the opening-day gifts they received from the Dallas Mavericks.

While the students were filing into the various buildings to officially start this school year, the Mavs Dancers, ManiAACs, Champ and MavsMan handed them school supplies, including a notebook, pencil and a voucher to attend one of the team’s games this upcoming season.

Needless to say, Dr. Lombardi was elated.

“The students are so super excited because we don’t often get something of this caliber at our school,” Dr. Lombardi said. “So this is a big huge celebration for us and it really is going to open a great school year for us. It definitely sets the tone.”

“This is an exciting opening of school, particularly because we love basketball at Skyline and we’re just so excited to have the Dallas Mavericks, who are just like the pinnacle of everything here in Dallas.”

Earlier on opening day at another Dallas Independent School District school, the Mavs ManiAACs and Dancers and team personnel greeted students at Frank Guzick Elementary. They showered them with the same school supplies – plus a voucher to attend to a Mavs game this season – that they handed to the Skyline High School students.

Dr. Adreana Davis, the principal at Frank Guzick Elementary, was appreciative to the Mavs for thinking of her 700 students during a time when some parents are facing a financial crunch.

“We are beyond excited,” Dr. Davis said. “It’s always great to have our community partners come out and really bless our school, and we’re fortunate to have the Mavericks join in and really provide our kids with something that they need in order for them to be successful, and that’s always school supplies.”

The Mavs aren’t just supplying school supplies and game vouchers to students at Skyline High School and Frank Guzick Elementary. Every Dallas ISD student – over 158,000 of them – will be given notebooks, pencils and other schools supplies. And a voucher to attend an upcoming Mavs game.

Jessica Ferguson, whose daughter is a first-grader at Frank Guzick Elementary, championed the care package handed to them by the Mavs. “It was so awesome for my daughter to have this experience,” said Ferguson, who is not a Dallas native. “We’re not from here and we don’t have anything like this where I’m from, so it’s amazing.”

“I’m from Oklahoma. This is a big deal, so I thank you guys.”

It’s also a huge deal for Louis Thomas, a senior who helped Skyline to a 34-2 record and a berth in last season’s Class 6A state semifinals, where they lost a three-overtime thriller to Cypress Falls.

“This is a big honor,” Thomas said. “It makes us want to get back to ourselves and get back to state, and this time maybe win.”

The school supplies were pieced together by a company name Elevate. Jeff Sampson, the founder and president of Elevate, said he appreciates the Mavs involving him in this venture.

“We got the word that the Mavs needed these done, so we rushed them through the factory,” Sampson said. “Anything the Mavs can do to support the community and the city of Dallas is fantastic and we’re happy to be a part of it, too. The Mavs were gracious enough to let us join in and enjoy the whole event, so this is really, really rewarding.”

As her students were handed supplies by the Mavs contingent upon arrival to school, Dr. Davis kept smiling and was thankful the Mavs brought her students so much joy on the first day of school.

“We are glad that our kids and our families are blessed with such a great donation from (Mavs owner) Mark Cuban and the Dallas Mavericks,” Dr. Davis said. “When I say that we are thrilled to have the opportunity to be a part of this great venture that the Mavericks are having this school year, and then for the entire Dallas Independent School District, we were just excited to be the first ones here on the first day of school.”

Dennis Smith Jr. could open things up for the Mavs’ 3-point shooters

What is the most important position in basketball? Some would say it’s center. If your big man isn’t athletic enough to defend the pick-and-roll or at least score efficiently around the rim, your team might be doomed. Some would say it’s the power forward. Can your 4-man shoot the 3? Can he exploit size mismatches due either to his strength or his quickness? Your power forward’s skill set defines your offense.

Many others, however — probably the majority — would say it’s the point guard position. Now more than ever, the NBA is catered to the quarterback. Nearly every team runs heavy pick-and-roll offenses that feature the point guard in an attacking, scoring-minded role. Gone are the days when 20 starting point guards would average single-digits in scoring. It’s a new era, and your point guard needs to be able to run an offense and score 15 or 20 a night while still creating quality looks for his teammates and defending guys like Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, and Chris Paul for 30-plus minutes. Sheesh.

By trading for Nerlens Noel last season and bringing him back for 2017-18, the Mavs shored up their center spot. Noel brings an athleticism and defensive versatility that this club hasn’t seen at that position in years, if ever at all. Dirk Nowitzki is thankfully still playing basketball, and he and Harrison Barnes can both still get you 20 points from the power forward spot. No questions there from a consistency standpoint.

Point guard, however, was the team’s biggest area of need heading into the summer. The Mavericks believe they filled that hole on draft night by selecting Dennis Smith Jr., who now steps into an offense that is practically ready-made for a player of his exact profile. Dallas will start athletes on the wing and at the 5-spot and can spread the floor with as many as four shooters around Smith who have all shot 38 percent or better from deep within the last couple years. All the offense needs is a player who can regularly initiate the sequence that results in a good shot. Ideally, that’s either a dunk or a 3-pointer.

The Mavs had some talented starting point guards last season, but neither were quite like Smith. Deron Williams entered the season as the starter, and while he was a terrific passer and at times a potent scorer from the 1-spot, he doesn’t have Smith’s explosiveness within the pick-and-roll. Williams was brilliant distributing the ball, especially once Nowitzki was healthy again, but he couldn’t attack switches against big men the way Smith projects to be able to. Yogi Ferrell, meanwhile, is a super-quick point guard and was an excellent 3-point shooter in his rookie season, but he doesn’t have Smith’s size or leaping ability. He gained a much better understanding of where his teammates want to be on the floor from a ball distribution standpoint, and hopefully with a full training camp to grow accustomed to these guys, Ferrell can take his passing game up another level this season. He and Smith will likely share the floor for stretches this season.

The Film Room: Dennis Smith Jr.

In this episode of The Film Room, we look at how one particular play illustrates Dennis Smith Jr.'s ability as a point guard.

The hope is that Smith’s game is an amalgam of those of Ferrell and Williams, that he can attack off the bounce like the cat-quick rookie and move the ball like the heady vet. If he can do those things, it could mean the Mavs’ shooters will find themselves in acres of space throughout the season, which could lead to a massive improvement in the team’s 3-point shooting.

Last season a combination of injuries, roster moves, and resting vets down the stretch led to some distorted team numbers. For example, the Mavs shot 36.2 percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers in 2016-17, which ranked 21st in the NBA. However, the players they’re bringing back from that team collectively shot 37.0 percent on catch-and-shoot jumpers, which would have ranked tied for 14th in the league. That might not seem like a significant difference, but considering the Mavs attempted 1,800 of them, it makes a difference across 82 games.

Those same numbers, too, took a massive leap once Dirk Nowitzki returned from injury on Dec. 23. The Mavs didn’t really start ticking offensively until later in the season, but bringing Nowitzki back achieved two things. First, it meant that between Dirk and Barnes, the Mavs could always play a power forward capable of shooting 3s, which opened up the offense. Second, it meant the point guards could always play pick-and-roll with a fearsome jump shooter, which bends defenses in fortuitous ways.

Below is a table showing the primary jump-shooters’ catch-and-shoot 3-point percentages both before and after Nowitzki returned from injury on Dec. 23, when many of their best shooters became even better.

Player C&S 3P% Before Dec. 23 C&S 3P% After Dec. 23 Difference
Dirk Nowitzki 31.6% 39.6% +8.0
Seth Curry 35.5% 43.4% +7.9
J.J. Barea 42.9% 46.7% +3.8
Devin Harris 33.3% 37.0% +3.7
Wesley Matthews 36.3% 38.9% +2.6
Harrison Barnes 36.6% 36.4% -0.2
Yogi Ferrell N/A 40.5% N/A
Totals 36.0% 39.7% +3.7

Of course, Nowitzki’s return wasn’t the only thing to happen that resulted in basically a full-scale improvement in 3-point shooting. Devin Harris and J.J. Barea both missed large chunks of time in the early part of the season, and most importantly once Ferrell came into the fold, the team saw an immediate offensive improvement in that regard. Why? Because for weeks at a time Ferrell was the only player on the roster who could consistently get into the lane.

Ferrell averaged 6.1 drives per game last season for the Mavericks, the most on the team. Most of those lane attacks came against opposing starting lineups, too. That number represents a big increase from Williams’ average of 4.9 drives per game and is a slight uptick from Barea’s 5.6 per game, but the Puerto Rican rarely played against starters. What we’re primarily focusing on is the starting point guard’s ability to get into the paint, because that’s where Smith is likely going to come in. The Mavs offense has to create penetration against opposing front line units to stay competitive early in games and avoid falling behind early.

Assuming Smith clinches the starting job in training camp, he’s presumably going to be playing plenty of minutes with Nowitzki. The German has an unrivaled influence on opponents’ defensive rotations, as his defender never wants to leave him open. That could mean Smith will commonly come off ball-screens with an immediate driving lane to the basket, forcing defenders to slide over and help. That’s going to leave Mavs shooters open all over the floor. In order to achieve all of this, though, a point guard has to have the quickness to attack, the explosiveness around the rim to strike enough fear into the defense to force help, and the court vision to identify the open man.

It’s been a while since the Mavericks have had a player with all three of those traits. The most recent is Monta Ellis, whose blistering off-the-dribble game fueled a top-five Mavs offense for back-to-back seasons from 2013-2015. Just look at everything going on here.

Ellis cruised right through the first line of help defense and into the paint, where the entire Pacers defense collapsed to prevent a layup attempt. That left Jose Calderon wide open for a 3 on the weak side. Nowitzki helped this action, but most of the credit goes to Ellis for so quickly and decisively getting into the lane. He knew he wouldn’t get a shot off, but by drawing so much attention through his action, he created a great look for someone else.

Ellis had a knack for attacking the paint early in the shot clock, and he and Nowitzki developed very good chemistry in the pick-and-pop game. The shifty guard had the freedom to choose whether to use his screen or attack in the opposite direction, and doing so would usually catch the defense off guard. Below, Ellis attacks before the opposing defense is even set, and again he finds Calderon open for 3.

Nowitzki wasn’t even involved in the following play, but his presence was surely felt.

Ellis called for a screen from a different player, then quickly crossed over and got going toward the lane with one hard step and dribble. Nowitzki’s defender was the only other big man on the floor, but he was pulled 25 feet out from the rim. That left only a couple guards to help against the driving Ellis, who once again found Calderon for 3. The Mavericks finished second in the league in 3-point shooting in 2013-14.

Smith is quick and explosive enough to make these plays. Swap out Calderon for Seth Curry or Wesley Matthews and you can have that similar 3-point production on the weak side. Barnes and Nowitzki are obviously no slouches from deep, either, and if Smith plays with Barea, Harris, or Ferrell, he’ll have another lead guard he can trust to hoist the long-range shots too.

He’ll have no shortage of options, but as was the case with Ellis, everything will start with Smith. Can he break down that first line of defense? Can he get into the lane and draw attention? And, if he does all that, can he also make the right pass to the right player at the right time? It’s a tough ask of a 19-year-old rookie, but that’s the kind of thing Smith will have to do multiple times per game for 82 in order for this offense to click at the level it’s capable of reaching. The good thing is Nowitzki and Noel will help him do that by drawing their own attention as a screener, and the shooters are going to be able to convert those looks when they’re there. Smith will only need to focus on doing his job, and fortunately he’s already shown he can do it.

In addition to starting at three, Harrison Barnes figures to shoulder bulk of backup power forward minutes again this season

DALLAS — It was a position of need for the Dallas Mavericks this offseason, leading the front office to bolster the front line with a bevy of additions at power forward. Still, after seeing leading scorer Harrison Barnes thrive at the power forward position during the 2016-17 schedule while 13-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki battled a nagging Achilles injury, the Mavericks figure to look to the budding star again for lengthy minutes at the four this upcoming season.

Seeing Nowitzki miss 25 of the Mavericks’ first 30 games last season due to the injury, Barnes picked up the slack while sliding from his customary small forward position. Barnes then slid back to the small forward spot after the mid-season acquisition of center Nerlens Noel in a trade with Philadelphia on Feb. 23. But after seeing Barnes produce a career-best season across the board, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is confident that the 6-foot-8 versatile forward can once again handle a heavy workload. That said, Barnes is expected to be called upon once again this season while operating as a starting small forward and the primary backup behind Nowitzki.

“Coming into (last season), most people thought Barnes was a three that could play four. And what he’s showing now is he’s a true four and he’s a real offensive weapon at the four who can play three and who holds his own, despite being a little bit undersized at times,” Carlisle explained last season. “You know, any time Dirk is out there, it helps space the floor. And it’s going to give Barnes more room to operate.”

Emerging as the Mavericks’ No. 1 offensive weapon with Nowitzki out, Barnes finished last season averaging a team-high 19.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game while making 79 appearances. He also connected on 46.8 percent from the field and 35.1 percent from beyond the three-point arc, leading the Mavs in scoring 37 times last season after doing so with Golden State just six times in 307 games during his first four years in the NBA. Barnes set a new franchise record by reaching double figures in the first 43 games to begin his tenure in Dallas as well, showcasing his consistency on a nightly basis. However, after several offseason additions at power forward, the Mavericks will have plenty of options behind Nowitzki at the four spot.

Working out a trade this summer with Miami for the services of 30-year-old big man Josh McRoberts in exchange for former second-round pick A.J. Hammons, the Mavericks added a proven veteran to provide depth at the power forward position. The Mavs also inked German big man Maximilian Kleber, who figures to compete with McRoberts and three-year pro Dwight Powell for minutes at the four. Meanwhile, two-way contract signee Johnathan Motley and summer-league standout Brandon Ashley hope to contend for playing time this season in a loaded frontcourt. But it’s Barnes that is expected to shoulder the bulk of the minutes at the four behind Nowitzki after showing he could handle the responsibility last season. And according to the 25-year-old Barnes, he will be more than ready once again to take on the heavy burden at both positions this season.

“You know, (last year) I had to play a lot of four. Obviously, I’m capable of playing both positions. I like playing the three, but it’s whatever the team needs me to do,” Barnes proclaimed after the conclusion of the ’16-17 season. “Getting to the free-throw line more, rebounding and playmaking. There’s a lot of different things I can do to improve, and I plan to. That’s something I’ll be prepared for and ready for when that time comes.”