Dennis Smith Jr. Reviving NBA Career With Charlotte Hornets

Dennis Smith Jr, Charlotte Hornets, NBA News
NBA Analysis Network

There are a lot of factors that go into an NBA draft prospect’s career panning out or not. The landing spot is very important as some organizations just aren’t very good at developing and growing talent.

Everyone develops at their own pace as well; some players just take a little longer to figure things out as a professional basketball player as there is a lot more than just playing the game that impacts performance. Sometimes it is the first time a player has been away from family and is on their own or they just aren’t ready to be a professional.

Whatever the reason may be, some players never live up to lofty expectations. One of the players that would fit that bill is Dennis Smith Jr. Smith was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft out of North Carolina State by the Dallas Mavericks.

An explosive athlete, Smith was viewed as a new-age point guard that could get to the basket at will and finish above the rim. His jump shot left a little to be desired, but you could not teach the athleticism that he possessed. Highlight plays were provided with regularity as Smith made the All-Rookie Second Team.

LATEST NBA NEWS: Dennis Smith Jr & Charlotte Hornets Updates

However, things began going downhill after that. Some tension began brewing between Smith and the organization as they had a new face of the franchise at the point guard spot in Luka Doncic. Jalen Brunson, a second-round pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, was also waiting in the wings.

While Smith and Doncic said all of the right things, and they played well together on the court, they weren’t teammates for very long. Smith was traded to the New York Knicks halfway through his second season in the NBA as part of the package that landed Kristaps Porzingis in Dallas.

New York was where many people thought Smith would end up in the draft, but they opted to select Frank Ntilikina eighth overall instead. He ended up with the orange and blue eventually, but things did not pan out there.

LATEST NBA NEWS: Dennis Smith Jr & Charlotte Hornets Updates

Smith’s production fell off a cliff as he dealt with numerous injuries. In parts of three seasons with the Knicks, the NC State product played in only 58 games. He was eventually traded to the Detroit Pistons, along with a second-round pick, in exchange for Derrick Rose.

His stint in the Motor City wasn’t very long, as he spent the remainder of the 2020-21 season with the Pistons before joining the Portland Trail Blazers for the 2021-22 season. Smith played in 37 games with Portland as they bottomed out with Damian Lillard sidelined by an injury.

Despite being only 24, Smith’s NBA career was seemingly hanging in the balance. He had yet to find a consistent role with a team and produce, but that looks to have changed this season. Knowing he could be running out of chances, he is making the most of the opportunity that the Charlotte Hornets presented to him.

LATEST NBA NEWS: Dennis Smith Jr & Charlotte Hornets Updates

Just days before training camp began, the Hornets signed Smith to a one-year deal as backcourt depth. Charlotte was looking for some help behind LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier and Smith has proven more than capable of filling that role.

With Ball sidelined because of a sprained ankle, Smith has filled in about as well as the Hornets could have hoped he would. In eight games and six starts, he is averaging 12 points, 6.4 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals in 30.9 minutes per game. Creating turnovers and getting into the open court is something that the Hornets thrive on and Smith is fueling that with his performance defensively.

He is doing his scoring efficiently, which is the most encouraging thing to see. Smith is making 49.4 percent of his shots overall and an impressive 42.1 percent from 3-point range.

LATEST NBA NEWS: Dennis Smith Jr & Charlotte Hornets Updates

Charlotte has to be happy that they have found a capable backup to soak up minutes behind Ball when he is healthy and ready to return. If that shooting improvement isn’t a fluke, Smith should have no issues keeping a job in the Hornets’ rotation and parlaying it into a new contract after the season.

After how tumultuous his career was at the start of it, it is hard to feel anything but good for Smith getting things on track. Turning 25 in November, he should have plenty of productive basketball ahead of him.