The 2017-18 NBA season has born witness to many highlights as it the approach its All-Star break. However, nothing has shined brighter than the performance of its rookie class. While the past few seasons have seen okay-at-best batches of fresh talent, this year has well over a dozen highlight players that may define the future of the NBA as we know it. Ben Simmons looks to be the Association’s next great point-forward, Donovan Mitchell has jumped out and is dominating games with a versatile array of moves to get buckets and Jayson Tatum has emerged on the scene as a hyper-efficient scorer and defender who keeps his cool under pressure like a wily veteran of the sport.

Still, there may be no more interesting rookie than Dallas Mavericks PG Dennis Smith Jr. The North Carolina native stands 6-foot-3-inches tall and weighs 195 pounds, and entered the 2017 NBA Draft as an athletic wonder, fast as a bullet with a legitimate 48-inch vertical. The Mavs drafted him with the ninth pick in the draft, and the young PG had been the toast of an otherwise rough season in Dallas.

While Smith’s numbers do not keep up with Simmons’ and Mitchell’s counting stats or Tatum’s percentage stats, his performance has showcased the raw superstar potential in the young man. Just look at the very first basket of his NBA career via a tweet from WFAA’s Mike Leslie:

How many point guards are looking to make a move like that at any given moment? It is a short list.

Yes, Smith entered the draft as a gifted athlete. He also, however, entered as one of the year’s premier boom-or-bust player. This is due to beliefs that he might struggle with shooting from the longer NBA three-point line, have sketchy defensive effort and potentially suffer from lingering effects relating to a 2015 left knee ACL injury. Through the first few months of his rookie season, Smith has worked hard to dispel the first two concerns.

First, the shooting. While not looking like the next iteration of Stephen Curry, Smith has managed, on a non-insignificant 4.1 3PA per game, to shoot a solid 37.4% from the trey since the start of December vs his tough start to the season. While this could just be a hot streak from a talented scorer, Smith has built a reputation as a hard-worker since joining the Mavs, as can be seen in a number of statements by head coach Rick Carlisle and teammates like Mavs legend Dirk Nowitzki through the season so far. Regarding the second concern, you have to remember that Smith is a rookie. There is a steep learning curve to playing NBA defense, as Carlisle has said in the past. With his new-found reputation as a hard-worker, it looks as if the defensive side of Smith’s game should work out over time.

Oh, and that third concern? About the left knee injury? That is a nonstarter as far as concern goes. Rather, it is actually another bit of the DSJ mystique, as Smith was born with an extra fifth ligament in his left knee, and was back to dunking a mere four-five weeks later. This, alongside his improving landing mechanics, augers well for Smith’s continued development towards future stardom.

The Mavericks got a good one this year, and hopefully a great one for years to come.

This article first appeared on isportsweb.com and was syndicated with permission.

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