DALLAS — Although the two will compete for minutes at the point guard position when the Dallas Mavericks begin training camp in late September, second-year standout Yogi Ferrell and rookie first-round draft pick Dennis Smith Jr. could also see time on the court together during the 2017-18 season.
Teaming together to lead the Mavericks during the MGM Resorts Summer League in Las Vegas last month, Ferrell and Smith pushed the Dallas team into the semifinals of the tournament while manning the starting backcourt. Ferrell averaged 13.3 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.2 steals during the Mavs’ six games, picking up where he left off at last season after earning a spot on the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team. Meanwhile, Smith earned a spot on the All-NBA Summer League First Team, averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.2 steals per outing as the Mavericks finished with a 5-1 record. The two cat-quick guards could now continue to find themselves playing together during the ’17-18 campaign. And after seeing success alongside Smith in the backcourt, Ferrell admits that he’s excited to see what the duo could accomplish during the upcoming season.
“I mean, sometimes I don’t have to do everything, so I definitely like that,” Ferrell said of playing alongside Smith during summer-league play. “I can play off the ball a little bit, and I can knock down open shots. You know, I don’t have to go out and kill myself every single play by bringing the ball up when they’re pressuring me, so it’s been good playing with Dennis.”
After going untaken in the last year’s NBA Draft, Ferrell signed as a free agent with the Brooklyn Nets on Nov. 9, 2016. The 6-footer then saw action in 10 games with Brooklyn, averaging 5.4 points, 1.2 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 15.1 minutes per contest before being waived on Dec. 8, 2016. Ferrell then starred with the Long Island Nets of the NBA G-League prior to being called up and signing a 10-day contract with the Mavericks on Jan. 28. Still, after averaging 11.3 points, 4.3 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 36 games (29 starts) with the Mavs during his rookie campaign, Ferrell doesn’t see the drafting of Smith in the first round as a demotion.
Ferrell was named Western Conference Rookie of the Month during February after scoring a career-high 32 points on 11-of-17 shooting and 9 of 11 from three-point range during a 108-104 win at Portland on Feb. 3. He also become the first undrafted rookie in NBA history to score 30-plus points and also lead his team in assists during that outing, tying the league’s rookie record for three-pointers in a single game. Ferrell now hopes to pass down his knowledge and experience to Smith as the first-year floor general embarks on his rookie season. That said, Ferrell could serve as Smith’s on-the-court mentor as the two try to help the Mavs bounce back from a 33-49 season.
“I’m just trying to tell him to play with pace,” Ferrell explained of his relationship with Smith. “He’s quick and fast just like I am, but he doesn’t have to play fast all the time. He can switch speeds, knowing when to go fast and know when to slow down. So, I’ve just been trying to help him with that so far.
“Everything that I’ve been through has helped,” he added. “That little stint with Brooklyn definitely helped me a lot, knowing the NBA lifestyle. And that made me ready for being with the Mavericks. I was able to show my full potential playing with the Mavericks. They let me play my game, so everything that I went through — the trials and tribulations — got me to this point.”