New York Knicks’ guard Dennis Smith Jr.’s lost season

"He doesn't have a clue how to make others better."

Nov 14, 2019; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. (5) reacts during the second quarter against the Dallas Mavericks at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The 9th overall pick of the 2017 draft, New York Knicks’ guard Dennis Smith Jr. seemed like a player with All-Star potential in just his rookie season. Originally drafted by the Dallas Mavericks, Smith Jr. posted 15 points and 5 assists per game in his freshman campaign but hasn’t been able to recapture any of the magic since.

Smith Jr. had a reduced role in his 2nd season and took a back seat to rookie phenom Luka Doncic. He was traded to the Knicks ahead of the 2019 trade deadline in a package for Kristaps Porzingis. Smith Jr. walked into a Knicks team with a barren roster. He had every chance to grab a prominent role. It seemed like a fresh start.

Upon arriving in New York, Smith Jr. was given a starting job. He started in 18 of 21 games played and posted solid numbers. Similar to his rookie season, Smith Jr. averaged 14.7 points and over 5 assists a game, better numbers than any other New York Knicks guard.

Going into the 2019 season, there was hope for Smith Jr. to be a building block going forward. Where did it all go wrong?

His jump-shot never improved.

David Fizdale and shooting coach Keith Smart spent time Smith Jr. and tried to eliminate the “hitch” in his jump-shot. Videos surfaced on social media of Smith Jr. shooting in open gyms with his new form that provided fans with hope. Nothing came of it. Smith failed to shoot even 30% from the 3 this season.

It wasn’t just his long-range shooting. Smith Jr. has posted an abysmal 34% field goal percentage this season.

Smith Jr. has always had freaky athleticism that lets him blow by defenders and get to the rim easily. While he might have the occasional highlight-reel dunk, his small frame and wingspan make it difficult for him to get around big rim protectors.

Not only has it compromised his ability to finish at the rim, but it also forces him to throw errant passes in traffic. He hasn’t shown any kind of progress. Simply put, Smith Jr. isn’t an efficient player. A scout told Marc Berman of the New York Post,

“He’s supremely athletic and can be a gifted scorer as an attack-style ballhandler. But he’s an average shooter and non-passer. And doesn’t have a clue how to make others better.”

Of course, at 22 years old, Dennis Smith Jr. can still grow. It’s hard to project his ceiling at anything more than a guard off the bench who creates penetration. Considering the Knicks are likely to add an additional point guard this offseason, I wouldn’t expect Smith Jr. to be a Knick for much longer.

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