DALLAS — Despite entering training camp next month with plenty of depth at the point-guard position, it’s unclear who will emerge as the Dallas Mavericks’ starter when the 2017-18 season gets underway.
Selecting rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. with the No. 9 overall pick in June’s NBA Draft, the Mavericks believe they filled a need at point guard after using a revolving door at the position last season. The Mavs also have second-year standout Yogi Ferrell returning for another season in coach Rick Carlisle’s system after coming on strong to close the ’16-17 campaign and earning All-Rookie Second Team honors. Veterans Seth Curry, J.J. Barea and Devin Harris are also signed for next season to supply the Mavs with depth in the backcourt. And according to Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, Smith will have to prove he’s ready to take the reins during training camp in order to win the starting job.
“Those keys are earned. You know, it’s going to be an interesting training camp,” Nelson explained during Smith’s introductory press conference with the Dallas media. “I think Dennis is going to play for one of the best coaches in the NBA. That being said, I think internally you can’t help but be excited by the potential, but he wouldn’t want it any other way. Just knowing the character of Dennis and knowing his family and surrounding structure, he’s going to want to earn those minutes. He’s truly a winner in every sense of the word.”
Smith showed that winning nature during the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas last month, averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals in six games as the Mavericks advanced to the semifinals of the tournament with a 5-1 record. Meanwhile, Ferrell picked up where he left off at last season, posting averages of 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.2 steals alongside Smith in the backcourt.
The two cat-quick guards are now expected to emerge as the frontrunners for the starting job. That said, Mavs owner Mark Cuban believes Ferrell’s competitive nature will make it a position battle to watch in training camp.
“I think Yogi and Dennis are going to push each other,” Cuban explained. “You know, Yogi is super competitive. He started a lot of games as a D-League call-up and basically a 10-day (signee), and I know that he’s just as competitive as Dennis is. They’re going to push each other. And I think that young core is what we want to continue to build on and grow with, and hopefully surprise a lot of people.”
Entering the offseason with a desire to upgrade at the point, the Mavericks believe they could immediately see an increase in production at the offensive end of the floor with Smith in the first unit. The Mavs will also try to revitalize a stagnant offensive attack as a team after ranking near the bottom of the league in several statistical categories.
The Mavs ranked 30th in league in scoring last season, posting just 97.9 points per game as a team. Dallas also dished out just 20.8 assists an outing, ranking 27th in that department. The Mavericks’ 103.7 offensive rating also ranked 23rd in the league. That said, Carlisle will ask for much more production to come from his floor generals this upcoming season.
“Well, having a dynamic point guard that can get places, that can attack space, create help and kick to guys like Dirk, like Wes (Matthews) and like (Harrison) Barnes, guys that can shoot the ball, and be able to hit guys like Nerlens (Noel) on rolls can really be a game-changer,” Carlisle explained.
“Look, we’ve had good point guards here for a long time,” he added. “Jason Kidd is one of the best in franchise history, but he’s a different kind of player than Dennis. You know, Dennis has got some gears that we just haven’t seen in a point guard in this organization since I’ve been here and maybe ever, so that’s exciting. I believe he has the ability to make the game easier for others. You know, people are going to be coming at him hard as a rookie and as a guy that’s coming in with some accolades, some hype and things like that, and I think he understands it. I think he’s looking forward to that.”