Rookie survey: Dallas Mavericks' Dennis Smith Jr. stands out from crowd

2017-18 NBA.com Rookie Survey

Last year’s rookie class was, to put it nicely, underwhelming. Malcolm Brogdon won the Kia Rookie of the Year, having averaged just 10.2 points and 4.2 assists per game. Joel Embiid played just 31 games and Dario Saric wasn’t very efficient. No. 1 pick Ben Simmons didn’t play and the guy — Kris Dunn — fellow rookies picked to be the star of the class had a disappointing season, after which he was traded.

This season’s rookie class arrives with more fanfare. But interestingly, with the big names in the first few picks, the class thinks highest of the guy selected at No. 9. Dennis Smith Jr. made quite an impression in the Las Vegas Summer League, averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists in six games.

For one fellow top-10 pick, Smith’s potential is about “how explosive he is and how capable he is at getting to the rim, and him developing his shot. I think a lot of people are underestimating how good he is right now and how good he’s going to be in the NBA.”

His fellow rookies aren’t, though.

NBA.com sat down with 39 rookies at the annual Rookie Photo Shoot at the Knicks’ practice facility earlier this month. They answered seven questions about their class, as well as a few about the current player they most admire and what they’re expecting as they make the jump to the NBA.


* * *

CATEGORIES: Kia Rookie of the Year pick? | Best career? | Biggest draft steal? | Most athletic? | Best shooter? | Best defender? | Best playmaker? | Toughest adjustment to NBA? | Skill to develop in NBA? | Favorite player in NBA?

NOTE: Players were not allowed to vote for themselves, college teammates or NBA teammates.

* * *

Who will be the 2017-18 Kia Rookie of the Year?

1. Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 25.7%

2. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 20.0%

3. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 17.1%

4. Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers — 5.7%

Donovan Mitchell, Utah — 5.7 %

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.7%

Others receiving votes: Dwayne Bacon, Charlotte; Tony Bradley, Utah; De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento; Josh Jackson, Phoenix; Malik Monk, Charlotte; Jayson Tatum, Boston; Sindarius Thornwell, LA Clippers

Last year: Kris Dunn — 29.0%

Worth noting: Only once have the rookies correctly predicted the Rookie of the Year. That was in the first year of the survey, 2007, when 53.5 percent predicted that Kevin Durant would win the award. The only Mav to win Rookie of the Year is Jason Kidd, who shared the award with Grant Hill in 1994-95.

Which rookie will have the best career?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 18.4%

Jayson Tatum, Boston — 18.4%

3. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 10.5%

Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 10.5%

5. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 7.9%

6. Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Harry Giles, Sacramento — 5.3%

Ben Simmons, Philadelphia — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; John Collins, Atlanta; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Luke Kennard, Detroit; Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers; Donovan Mitchell, Utah; Malik Monk, Charlotte

Last year: Brandon Ingram — 26.7%

Worth noting: Tatum tying Ball makes it four straight years of Duke guys earning the most votes on this question, joining Jabari Parker, Jahlil Okafor and Ingram.

Which rookie was the biggest steal at where he was selected in the Draft?

1. Donovan Mitchell (13th pick), Utah — 18.9%

2. Dennis Smith Jr. (9th pick), Dallas — 13.5%

3. John Collins (19th pick), Atlanta — 12.2%

4. Jordan Bell (38th pick), Golden State — 10.8%

5. Kyle Kuzma (27th pick), L.A. Lakers — 9.5%

6. Josh Jackson (4th pick), Phoenix — 8.1%

Sindarius Thornwell (48th pick), LA Clippers — 8.1%

8. Dwayne Bacon (40th pick), Charlotte — 5.4%

Others receiving votes: Harry Giles (20), Sacramento; Jonathan Isaac (6), Orlando; Monte Morris (51), Denver; Davon Reed (32), Phoenix; Jayson Tatum (3), Boston

Last year: Dejounte Murray — 16.1%

Worth noting: Mitchell got less than 1/5 of the vote, but this was still the highest percentage ever for this question, which usually gets the biggest mix of responses. Mitchell, who averaged 24.0 points in Summer League (scoring 37 in his final game) was the only player to receive votes for each of the first six questions.

Which rookie is the most athletic?

1. Dennis Smith Jr. Dallas — 43.6%

2. Terrance Ferguson, Oklahoma City — 12.8%

3. John Collins, Atlanta — 10.4%

4. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 7.7%

Malik Monk, Charlotte — 7.7%

6. Jonathan Isaac, Orlando — 5.1%

Donovan Mitchell, Utah — 5.1%

Others receiving votes: Bam Adebayo, Miami; De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento; Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia

Last year: Jaylen Brown — 38.7%

Worth noting: Smith didn’t attend the NBA combine, where Frank Jackson had the highest vertical leap among players who stayed in the Draft at 42.0 inches. But Smith reportedly recorded a 48-inch vertical leap in a workout with the Lakers, which, according to another report, tied the record (held by Wilt Chamberlain and Darrell Griffith) for the highest vertical in NBA history. You have to wonder how he got less than half the votes.

Which rookie is the best shooter?

1. Luke Kennard, Detroit — 48.6%

2. Malik Monk, Charlotte — 13.5%

3. Terrance Ferguson, Oklahoma City — 10.8%

4. Kyle Kuzma, L.A. Lakers — 5.4%

Tyler Lydon, Denver — 5.4%

Others receiving votes: Tyler Dorsey, Atlanta; Markelle Fultz, Philadelphia; Frank Jackson, New Orleans; Justin Jackson, Sacramento; Lauri Markkanen, Chicago; Donovan Mitchell, Utah

Last year: Buddy Hield — 65.7%

Worth noting: It didn’t this year, but this question, on average, yields the closest thing to a consensus. The Kings’ Frank Mason (48.7 percent) was a better 3-point shooter than Kennard (44.3 percent) last season.

Which rookie is the best defender?

1. Josh Jackson, Phoenix — 26.3%

2. Jordan Bell, Golden State — 23.7%

3. Donovan Mitchell, Utah — 21.1%

4. De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 10.5%

5. Davon Reed, Phoenix — 5.3%

Others receiving votes: Bam Adebayo, Miami; Jarrett Allen, Brooklyn; OG Anunoby, Toronto; Jonathan Isaac, Orlando; Sindarius Thornwell, LA Clippers

Last year: Kris Dunn — 23.5%

Worth noting: The Suns have been an above-average defensive team just once in the last 10 years and have ranked in the bottom five on that end of the floor each of the last two seasons. So, they could use an impact defender. If Bell can play, the Warriors getting him with the 38th pick (after buying it from the Bulls) is a case of the rich getting richer.

Which rookie is the best playmaker?

1. Lonzo Ball, L.A. Lakers — 71.8%

2. Markelle Fultz, LA Clippers — 7.7%

3. Jawun Evans, LA Clippers — 5.1%

De’Aaron Fox, Sacramento — 5.1%

Dennis Smith Jr., Dallas — 5.1%

Others receiving votes: Frank Mason, Sacramento; Jayson Tatum, Boston

Last year: Kris Dunn — 29.4%

Worth noting: The 71.8 percent that Ball received on this question is the second highest percentage that any player has received on any question in the history of the survey, topped only by Stephen Curry’s 79.4 percent on the “best shooter” question in 2009.

A fellow lottery pick on Ball, who averaged 10.3 assists per 36 minutes in Summer League: “His basketball IQ is very high. He knows where to be, he knows where his teammates need to be, and he knows what’s going on at all times. He’s the type of guy that anybody would want to play with.”

In L.A., Ball is replacing D’Angelo Russell, who was named the best playmaker by his classmates two years ago.

What will be the biggest adjustment for you, playing in the NBA?

1. Physicality (size and strength of opponents) — 36.8%

2. Speed or pace of the game — 30.3%

3. Length of season — 14.5%

4. Travel — 7.9%

Also receiving votes: Longer 3-point distance, Defense, Learning new plays, Talent level of opponents

Last year: Speed or pace of the game – 40.9%

Worth noting: Retired players will tell you that the league isn’t nearly as physical as it once was. Incoming rookies don’t want to hear that, apparently.

What is the most important skill you need to develop?

1. Shooting — 38.5%

2. Ball-handling — 12.8%

3. Basketball IQ/mentality — 7.7%

Strength — 7.7%

4. Athleticism/quickness — 5.1%

Dunking/finishing plays — 5.1%

Everything — 5.1%

Playmaking/Pick and roll — 5.1%

Preparation/work ethic — 5.1%

Also receiving votes: Confidence, Defense, Leadership

Last year: N/A

Worth noting: This was a new question this year. The rookies seem to know that shooting has become the most important skill in the game, though there are probably a few coaches around the league who are hoping their guy was the one who admitted he’s got to get better defensively.

Who is your favorite player in the league?

1. LeBron James, Cleveland — 31.5%

2. Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City — 19.4%

3. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio — 8.3%

4. James Harden, Houston — 6.5%

5. Kevin Durant, Golden State — 5.6%

Draymond Green, Golden State — 5.6%

7. Anthony Davis, New Orleans — 4.2%

8. Kyrie Irving, Cleveland — 3.7%

Others receiving votes: Carmelo Anthony, New York; Jamal Crawford, Minnesota; Pau Gasol, San Antonio; Paul George, Oklahoma City; Blake Griffin, LA Clippers; Dwight Howard, Charlotte

Last year: Kevin Durant — 29.7%

Worth noting: After three straight years as the incoming class’ favorite player, Durant only received a couple of votes. This is only the second time James was named the rookies’ favorite player (2012 was the other) in the eight years that this question has been asked.

John Schuhmann is a staff writer for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.