Dallas Mavericks: Is Dennis Smith going through a sophomore slump?

Dallas Mavericks Dennis Smith Jr. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
Dallas Mavericks Dennis Smith Jr. Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images) /

In the 2017-2018 season, the Dallas Mavericks prized rookie Dennis Smith Jr. looked promising and like a steal at the 9th pick. Now in his second campaign, how has DSJ fared a quarter into the season?

Dennis Smith Jr. had a strong rookie campaign with the Dallas Mavericks. He ended the season with averages of 15.2 points, 5.2 assists, and 3.8 rebounds on 39.5% shooting. His shooting percentages could have been better, but this is a common struggle for rookies in the NBA.

Moving on to this year, he is averaging 13.6 points, 3.9 assists, and 2.8 rebounds on 43.9% shooting. His numbers do look a bit worrying because they’ve gone down in multiple categories, but could this be an effect of a decreased role on a better team?

Last season, DSJ played almost 30 minutes per game which was good for 3rd most on a team where he was relied on for scoring and playmaking. He was the second leading scorer and attempted the second most shots on the team after Harrison Barnes.

A quarter way into the 2018-2019 season, Dennis Smith is now 4th in scoring and shots attempted, and averaging the 5th most minutes on the team, which is the least of the starters.

This decrease in usage has definitely affected Smith’s output, as reflected by his numbers. However, there are signs that Smith has improved as a player.

Smith has had almost a 4% jump in field goal percentage, including a 5% percent increase in 3-point percentage. The decreased pressure on Smith to produce has allowed him to take more high percentage shots and be more comfortable on the floor.

So, we know that Dennis Smith has been utilized and depended on less this season, and that has affected his season averages so far. However, is that the only thing that affected those percentages?

The sophomore slump is a phenomenon where sophomores lose enthusiasm and motivation in their second year, after an exciting and new experience as a freshman or rookie. Fans usually expect their sophomores to have improved after their first summer, and these higher expectations are not usually met.

Rookie of the year Ben Simmons has produced similar numbers to his rookie year so far. Runner-up Donovan Mitchell has struggled from behind the arc, making less than 30% of his attempts. And, as we’ve seen, Dennis Smith’s averages in points, rebounds, and assists have dropped while his shooting percentages have risen.

If Dennis Smith can continue to improve his shooting percentages, even if his averages don’t vastly improve, Mavs fans can take rest in knowing that he is only adjusting to a new role on this Mavericks team. Better shooting means DSJ will contribute more efficiently to the offense.

Closing Thoughts

DSJ has experienced some struggles to start this season, but fans need to give him time to refine his game, as well as adjust to the addition of talented players to his team. He just turned 21 a few days ago and his physical gifts are undeniable. Under the Mavericks coaching and training staff, he should have plenty of opportunities to improve.

Dennis has repeatedly shown his determination and unrelenting attitude on the court. A few nights ago, he showed impressive determination in a chippy game vs the clippers.

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This fighting spirit is a good sign that DSJ will work hard and try his best to reach the potential that we all saw in him last season. With more effort like we saw in the Clippers game, Dennis Smith Jr. will secure the respect and admiration of Mavs and other NBA fans alike.