Dennis Smith Jr. and Luka Doncic already bonding on and off the court
Dallas’ young guards have been playing pickup ball together in the offseason
The Dallas Mavericks drafted point guard Dennis Smith Jr. last year. They added heralded rookie point guard Luka Doncic this summer. With only one basketball to go around, something will have to give.
Before the Mavs’ media day on Friday, Smith answered any concerns about playing with his new teammate, whom he got to know this offseason and comfortably calls “Luk.”
“I don’t mind playing off the ball at all,” Smith told The Undefeated. “He’s a good enough player with a high enough IQ that I can play off the ball and still be effective.”
Smith said he has been enjoying playing with Doncic in scrimmages before training camp.
“Me and Luk have been playing pickup, and every day we’re on the same team we get the most wins regardless of who is in there,” Smith said.
“I like his game. On draft night I was saying I was a fan. After seeing him in person and playing on his team, I think he can contribute early. We can coexist. He is going to be pretty good.”
The Mavericks acquired the Slovenian star on draft night in a trade with the Atlanta Hawks, who received Oklahoma guard Trae Young and a first-round pick in return. The 2018 EuroLeague MVP, Doncic led Real Madrid to the 2018 EuroLeague championship.
Former NBA forward Anthony Randolph, who was Doncic’s teammate on Real Madrid and the Slovenian national team, believes Doncic will adapt well on and off the court as a rookie.
“He is a great guy to have in a locker room and gets along with everyone,” Randolph told The Undefeated. “And I believe he will be an instant fan favorite because of his personality and the way he interacts with fans. He will instantly be able to see the floor well and set up his teammates for easy buckets with his passing ability.”
Smith said he and Doncic have connected off the court too.
“We have a good relationship. We stay in the same apartment complex. We are going to get along really, really well off the court. We are going to get along really well,” Smith said with a laugh.
Smith averaged 15.2 points, 5.2 assists and 3.8 rebounds per game as a rookie last season. The 6-foot-3, 195-pounder shot only 39.5 percent from the field and 31.3 percent from 3-point range but earned a second-team All-Rookie selection. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of his rookie season is that he played nearly 30 minutes per game; Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is not known for playing rookie point guards much.
Smith, who has been spending a lot of time this offseason working on shooting off the dribble and the catch, said the biggest thing he learned from his rookie season is to move on to the next play. One of his first goals is building chemistry quickly with the newcomers Doncic and DeAndre Jordan, a free-agent addition.
“I’ve been working in the gym,” Smith said. “I’m trying to build chemistry with Luk. When DeAndre arrives later this week, I am going to try to build chemistry with him. I’m getting a better relationship with the assistant coaches. I think I am prepared for this season.”
The Mavericks didn’t make the playoffs last season, but Smith said they will turn some heads in the tough Western Conference.
“There were, like, 34 to 35 games we lost last season by less than five points,” Smith said. “We had a lot of injuries to deal with last year. We didn’t have Luk. We didn’t have DeAndre Jordan. Everyone else is going to progress as well. We are going to surprise a lot of people this year.”