Knicks’ Tom Thibodeau was ‘enamored’ with Dennis Smith Jr. in 2017 draft process (Report)

New York Knicks, Dennis Smith Jr.
Dec 7, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (5) dribbles the ball against the Indiana Pacers during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Point guard Dennis Smith Jr., who was selected by the Dallas Mavericks with the ninth pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, is one of many individuals on the New York Knicks playing on a rookie deal. The Knicks acquired Smith as part of their return on Kristaps Porzingis from the Mavericks in January 2019.

According to SNY’s Ian Begley, Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau, the president and head coach of the Minnesota Timberwolves in June 2017, was “enamored” with Smith coming out of college.

“Something worth noting on the workouts: Thibodeau and others with the Timberwolves at the time were enamored with Dennis Smith Jr. coming out of college, sources say. Thibodeau and others from the organization attended Smith Jr.’s private pre-draft workout.”

Smith played one season at NC State. The Timberwolves made a draft night trade with the Chicago Bulls for Jimmy Butler. Minnesota swapped first-round picks with Chicago in the trade, going from seven to 16; Smith wasn’t on the board when the T-Wolves were on the clock. Meanwhile, the Knicks selected French point guard Frank Ntilikina with the eighth pick.

Smith held his own in the second half of 2019 with the Knicks, averaging 14.7 points, 5.4 assists and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 41.3 percent from the field.

Last season was a setback for the point guard. He was a primary reserve and logged a career-low 15.8 minutes per contest across 34 games, three of which he started. Smith averaged 5.5 points, 2.9 assists and 0.8 steals per game while shooting 34.1 percent from the field.

Knicks president Leon Rose called Smith “a special talent” in a June interview with MSG Networks. Their point guard depth chart includes Smith, Ntilikina and Jared Harper; veteran Elfrid Payton has an $8 million team option for the 2020-21 NBA season.

New York has been linked to a handful of potential lottery guards in the upcoming NBA Draft including RJ Hampton, Killian Hayes and UNC’s Cole Anthony. The Knicks have three draft picks: their own first and second-round pick (8, 37) and the Los Angeles Clippers’ first rounder (27).

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