Dennis Smith Jr. yearning for the day the Mavs return to the NBA’s biggest stage

FRISCO – That big stage in his profession, aka as the NBA Finals, is something Dallas Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. yearns for.

Although Smith just finished his rookie season with the Mavs less than two months ago, he already has his attention squarely on next season and all that it entails. He’s also thinking about the day he hopes it all comes together and the Mavs make a return trip to the NBA Finals, yet he knows it’s all a process.

“You’ve got to take steps,” Smith said. “There’s ups and downs you’ve got to go through.

“Whether it’s not making the playoffs or a first-round exit, you’ve got to go through all of that. It’s something we look forward to doing pretty soon.”

Smith is fully aware that adding quality pieces to the puzzle helps accelerate a franchise’s bid to travel deep into the playoffs. That’s why he’s thrilled about the prospect of the Mavs obtaining a quality player when they pick fifth in the June 21 NBA Draft.

Last year the Mavs had the No. 9 overall pick in the draft and chose Smith, who played just one season at North Carolina State before turning pro. That move worked out very well for the Mavs and Smith, who averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists per game this season and amptly proved that he can quarterback an NBA team.

As he did last year for personal reasons, Smith is paying close attention to the draft.

“I was just in it last year,” he said. “A couple of the guys in the draft I played against them or played with them.

“We’ve got the No. 5 (draft selection) and I believe that we’re going to do a good job of getting somebody good for our franchise and I’m looking forward to it.”

And what advice does Smith have for the top draft pick of the Mavs, who won the 2011 NBA title?

“Be prepared to work,” he said, “and everything that you get you’re going to have to earn it.”

Although he personally knows some players in this year’s draft class, Smith said: “I haven’t really kicked it with nobody outside of basketball in this year’s draft class. I’m fans of a lot of guys in the draft.”

Smith also is a big fan of Mavs forward Dirk Nowitzki. That’s one of the reasons he’ll be playing in Dirk Nowitzki’s 2018 Heroes Celebrity Baseball Game, which is at 6:30 tonight at Dr Pepper Ballpark.

“It’s something I was looking forward to,” Smith said. “Overall, it’s a good event from what I understand.

“Everybody enjoys it and everybody has a good time.”

Smith knows of how Nowitzki has touched so many lives in the Dallas/Fort Worth community with his significant charity work. And he knows how Nowitzki’s tireless work on and off the basketball court has resonated with fans in this area.

“He’s an icon,” Smith said. “A well-respected figure in the Dallas community.

“Like I said, him putting on this event and allowing everybody to come enjoy each other’s company is a great experience for Dallas.”

Smith said he used to play shortstop back in the day, so he’s looking forward to showcasing his baseball talents tonight. But what kind of baseball skills does he actually possess?

“You’ve got to wait and see (tonight),” Smith said. “I played up to the seventh grade.”

As far as his primary profession is concerned, Smith likes the variety of big men in the 2018 draft class.

“It’s a lot of versatility with the big men in the draft this year,” he said. “They’re pretty good defensively, they’re good offensively as well.

“Like I said, I believe we’ll get somebody that’s good for our team.”