As we enter 2018, the Dallas Mavericks are the hottest team in the league. They’ve won four straight now — amazingly, there are no active streaks longer — and have climbed out from the bottom of the standings where they once sat, now only boasting the sixth-worst record in the league.
This shouldn’t come as a surprise, even as the Mavericks knocked off the Oklahoma City Thunder on New Year’s Eve by a score of 116-113. After all, Dallas won 33 games last season — certainly not a good season by their standards, but not an abjectly terrible one. They’ve replaced no one from that roster, but they have added someone: first round pick Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith’s averaging 13.7 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 4.2 assists this season, and he recorded his first career triple-double — the third-youngest player to ever do it — on Friday. His play hasn’t exactly been steady — he’s still shooting under 40 percent on the year — but he’s a dynamic scoring guard who is showing playmaking ability that adds something to a team that wasn’t that bad last year.
Specifically, on Sunday, the Mavericks probably don’t win without his contributions. Smith scored 13 of the final 16 points after struggling with his shot most of the game — including this banked three.
Dennis Smith, u gotta call those banks! pic.twitter.com/dEuVLerMdN— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) January 1, 2018
“I didn’t call glass,” Smith said after the game. “I called game.”
For a player who has insisted that he belongs on the court late in games, after Rick Carlisle had benched him for several of them, it was a strong showing. Against a team that has looked more and more like a top tier team in the Western Conference, it was even more impressive.
There’s almost no chance that the Mavericks recover for a playoff push, and missing out on a top-five pick might ultimately hurt the team — but you can’t complain about Smith’s development. Certainly, he appears to be the real deal.
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Also, this happened
Luke Walton to Trevor Ariza "fuck you" pic.twitter.com/5uxIq86kHY— BLACK ADAM SCHEFTER (@B1ackSchefter) January 1, 2018
Luke Walton and Trevor Ariza are former teammates. There are no hard feelings shared here.