Dallas Mavericks: Will Dennis Smith Jr. be ready to play off-ball?

Dallas Mavericks Rick Carlisle Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dallas Mavericks Rick Carlisle Copyright 2017 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images) /

One of the things the Dallas Mavericks will have to gauge this year is the ability of Dennis Smith Jr. to play off the ball. Can DSJ be successful in this role?

Last year, the Dallas Mavericks attempted to move Dennis Smith Jr. around on the offense from the ball dominant player at all times, to an off the ball playmaker. This adjustment was generally made while DSJ and J.J. Barea were on the court together, simply because he is really the only other ball-dominant player the Mavs had last year.

This year will be very different.

Many Mavs fans (including myself) felt that Dallas was taking Dennis Smith off ball in order to prepare for the 2018 NBA Draft. Rumors of a potential pairing of Dennis and either Trae Young or Luka Doncic began to surface and obviously these fans had a good idea of what the front office was thinking.

Pairing Luka and Dennis Smith is obviously going to take some time to get used to. Two ball-dominant players in the same lineup need to learn how to work together without being completely ineffective while off the ball. That is going to be especially difficult for Dennis Smith Jr., who’s game is much more built to control the offense.

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The way I like to look at it is comparing these players to NBA players that have a similar style. These comparisons aren’t new, but it is important to think about the style of play that these guys use in order to understand how difficult this could be for the Dallas Mavericks coaching staff and Rick Carlisle specifically.

The first comparison is Dennis Smith to Russell Westbrook. Obviously DSJ has not shown the MVP caliber talent that Russ has become over the years, but as far as style of play goes, these two players rely heavily on their explosiveness to become major playmakers. Neither guy is a superb shooter by any means but they can both get by with their shot due to defenders playing off of them.

Now think of Luka Doncic as a player similar to Steve Nash. Neither guy is an elite athlete but they are both shifty, smart with their movement and excellent passers. Both can shoot the ball very well and can create plays for themselves and the rest of their team at an elite level. Obviously Luka is bigger and Nash is a proven elite NBA talent, but they do have similar styles.

Could you imagine Westbrook and Nash sharing a backcourt? I have to assume that would be a difficult offense to run because each player can be so dynamic with the ball. Sure they can split plays and have different times during the game where each has the ball, but is that the most effective way to do things?

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I trust that Coach Carlisle will have some great ideas in store for this team as I know he is excited to have Luka and Dennis sharing a backcourt. DSJ will figure out how to play off the ball, but it may take some more growing pains like the ones we saw last year.