Dennis Smith Jr. came to the Dallas Mavericks with high expectations.
And the rookie ninth overall draft pick didn’t disappoint.
Smith started 69 games and averaged 15.2 points, 5. 2 assists and 3.8 rebounds. Many of his points came in spectacular fashion as he became regarded as one of the best dunkers in the league.
The 6-foot-3 Smith finished third in the league’s slam dunk contest.
Despite the play of Dirk Nowitzki, Harrison Barnes and Smith, the Mavericks struggled all season, finishing 24-58 and never contending for the postseason.
“It was a roller-coaster year, and there were a lot of ups and downs,” said Smith, who helped kick off the Kids Foot Locker Challenge with some local Boys & Girls Clubs in Dallas on Thursday.
Also during the season, a report linked Smith to an FBI investigation into allegations of corruption in college basketball. Smith only played one season with the Wolfpack before turning pro.
“Allegations are just allegations. There isn’t any proof behind anything,” Smith said. “I’m just ready to go home for the summer.”
After talking and playing with the kids at the Oak Cliff Club, Smith reflected on his rookie season:
On playing with Nowitzki and the superstar’s decision to return for a 21st season
It’s crazy. It’s something I look at every day. You have to appreciate something like that. Even being in a locker room with a 20-year, sure-fire Hall-of-Famer is a blessing.
I already knew. He sits right in front of me on the plane. I didn’t see the press conference. But everybody keeps talking about it, so I’ll probably check it out later. It means a lot (that he’s coming back).
He’s a veteran leader. He’s won a championship, been to the playoffs numerous times, 50-win teams almost his whole career. I think it’ll be important for me and the rest of young guys, and whoever else we draft to have him in the locker room with us. And on the court.
On the latest developments in the FBI case
State is going to continue to do their thing and ball out. I haven’t seen the new reports, but when the last ones came out I saw my name in there. And there isn’t anything I can do about it. It just is what it is. It didn’t affect me at all. I know who I am as a person.”
On this season’s draft prospects
I’ve seen a couple of guys who are pretty nice. I’ve seen (Deandre) Ayton, (Marvin) Bagley (III), I’ve seen Jaren Jackson (III), (Mohamed) Bamba. Those are some of the big guys who have stood out, to me. I think they’ll have a pretty strong impact on the league when they get here.
On his first season in the league
My motto was working and learning, and I think I did both of those things pretty well. And I think I’ve prepared myself for next season, including this summer.
I enjoy bit of it. Especially in an area in like this, which is kinda similar to where I grew up. I want to come out and be a positive role model for the kids. I think it will be good for them. I was a terrible eater. It costs money to eat well. It’s based on your situation. But if you have the knowledge at a young age, I think it will be key. If you start early you can get a jump-start on me.
On his music and his favorite North Carolina barbeque spot
It’s tough. I really just shuffle. I have a whole R&B play-list that I shuffle before the game. But, it’s J. Cole (at the top of the hip-hop game). It’s a fact.
And I’m from Fayetteville. I don’t eat barbeque in Raleigh. My grandmother makes barbeque and my pops makes barbeque. I’d rather have homemade barbeque then get it from somewhere else.