As a rookie last season, Dennis Smith Jr. didn’t shoot the ball very well for the Dallas Mavericks.
He shot just 39.5 percent from the field on 14.8 attempts per game, and he hit only 31.3 percent of his three-pointers on 4.9 attempts per game. The 20-year-old must significantly improve his shooting as he continues developing.
Jonathan Tjarks recently spoke about why Smith could be poised for a much better sophomore season now that he’s playing next to rookie Luka Doncic, who is an incredible passer (via The Ringer):
“I’ve got a fun stat for you guys. Dennis was way better on catch-and-shoot threes than versus off-the-dribble threes last year. The problem was that he had nobody to get him open threes because nobody on the Mavs can pass.”
Last season, Smith averaged 0.66 points per possession on jump shots off the dribble. He shot 78-of-280 (27.9 percent) on these attempts, among the worst in the league among those with as many opportunities.
Meanwhile, the point guard averaged 1.05 PPP on catch-and-shoot jump shots. His field goal percentage was much better, shooting 50-of-142 (35.2 percent) during his first season in the league. And, as originally noted by Bobby Karalla, Smith was 31-for-63 (49.2 percent) when he was unguarded. He shot almost the exact same field goal percentage on this play type in college, suggesting these numbers aren’t a fluke.
Smith averaged 1.48 PPP on unguarded catch-and-shoot attempts for Dallas, which ranked No. 9 in the NBA among those with as many opportunities. With Doncic as a passer and DeAndre Jordan as an offensive threat, especially as a roll man, maybe Smith will find himself open more often.
Smith was 55-for-150 (36.7 percent) on catch-and-shoot three-point attempts last season. For comparison, he was 51-for-189 (26.9 percent) on all of his other shots from long distance.
Doncic is going to attract defenders and his court vision is one his greatest strengths. He should help Smith get open and take some pressure off of his backcourt mate, which will allow much easier shot attempts for the point guard.