This is a terrifically deep NBA Draft, especially when it comes to point guards/combo guards. Look at ‘em all!
Markelle Fultz. Lonzo Ball. Malik Monk, Dennis Smith Jr., De'Aaron Fox and Frank Ntilikina could all go in the top nine slots — No. 9 being where the Dallas Mavericks are likely to pick.
What we knew going into Wednesday, eight days before the June 22 draft:
*Fultz is likely going to Boston at No. 1.
*Ball seems like a continuing possibility for the Lakers at No. 2. (My guys think other rumors are smokescreens.)
*The Mavs like Fox so much about this group that he may be second only to Fultz ... but he'll gone before 9.
*Dallas clearly has enough affection to consider Italian breakfast partner Ntilikina - "Pencil Him In'' -- to be a better prospect than Monk, who is not a pure point guard, and than Smith, who is physically dynamic in every way at the position.
And now, what we know about Thursday:
*Dallas wants Smith to come to DFW for a visit. That may still happen. But for now, the Mavs are among the teams that will travel to the East Coast for Smith's private workout in front of a handful of teams.
*Agent Kim Grillier is running this show. Grillier and Smith have been based in different cities, so I don't yet know if the workout will be in New York or elsewhere.
*Among the other teams I know will be there: Orlando, which picks at No. 6. I'm told the Magic likely covet Jayson Tatum at No. 6 but that they have Smith (and Gonzaga center Zack Collins) ranked higher than most teams.
That last point is an important one for Dallas, which, while hoping for a visit with Collins (and other lotto guys) does not wish to take him as high as 9. (Part of the thinking there: Not desiring to double-up assets at center with the coming payday for Nerlens Noel.) So obviously, the more guys taken ahead of the Mavs at 9 that Dallas itself wouldn't have taken, the better.
But does Dallas prefer that Smith be one of those taken-ahead guys?
That depth of talent allows a scouting department to be picky when it comes to its likes and dislikes. And in what I’m sure will come as a surprise to Dennis Smith Jr. fans, the Mavs find a few things to dislike about Smith.
Maybe a few too many.
In his single season at North Carolina State., the freshman Smith was sometimes lethargic, didn’t seem to exert much effort on defense, and was the top member of a Wolfpack that played poorly enough to get its coach fired.
Still, Smith was named ACC Rookie of the Year and was a Second-Team All-Conference player. He is a gifted scorer and ball-handler on the offensive end, and while he mighty not be a “pass-first’’ point guard, he did ring up plenty of assists in college.
He’s powerfully-built, his athleticism is off the charts -- his 48-inch vertical ties a combine record -- and his BBIQ is high. Fans of his game like to compare the 6-3 freshman to Russell Westbrook comparison.
Do we want “The Next Russ’’? We do.
But is Dennis Smith Jr. too “score-first’’ too ball-dominant, not a “move-and-share’’ guy … And therefore not a great fit for coach Rick Carlisle and the Mavs?
Again, we’re being hyper-critical (and so are the Mavs) because Dallas needs to get this right. Drafting in the top-nine in the lottery just doesn’t happen around here. So the opportunity is magnified … and the magnifying glass focused on Smith is more intense.
The trick with someone like Frank Ntilikina is that you, as a scout, needs to be able to “project.’’ Ntilikina is 18 and learning the game in France, and I’ve already got people in the Mavs organization telling me if he somehow lands here, might be destined for a great deal of developmental time with the Texas Legends.
That wouldn’t be the likely outcome of a Smith-to-Dallas scenario. He’s developed enough to compete to be the starting point guard right now. And yet … Smith is just 19, and also deserves time to grow.
Is he a "coach-killer,'' a "ball-stopper,'' a reason for his team to be "dysfunctional''?
Or is he a kid who simply needs to tighten up his fundfamentals, a shot-maker, a marvel?
Dennis Smith Jr. will take the stage Thursday. The Mavs will have a front-row seat. It'll be close to his last chance to prove to a team like Dallas that he's superior to Frank Ntilikina ... and it'll be close to the Mavs' last chance to find that out, too.