Dennis Smith Jr. Tops Lonzo Ball as Rookie of the Year Pick in NBA Rookie Survey

Timothy RappFeatured ColumnistAugust 22, 2017

Dallas Mavericks 2017 NBA basketball first-round selectee, Dennis Smith Jr., listens as head coach Rick Carlisle, right, makes comments during a news conference, Friday, June 23, 2017, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. was voted the most likely player to win the 2017-18 season's Rookie of the Year award in the NBA Rookie Survey, according to John Schuhmann of NBA.com.

He earned 25.7 percent of the vote from the 39 rookies surveyed earlier this month, followed by Los Angeles Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball (20 percent), Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz (17.1 percent) and a three-way tie between Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma, Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell and Sixers forward Ben Simmons (5.7 percent each).        

The rookies also voted Ball and Boston Celtics forward Jayson Tatum as the most likely players to have the best NBA careers (18.4 percent each), Mitchell (picked No. 13 overall) as the biggest steal in the draft (18.9 percent) and Smith as the most athletic player (43.6 percent).

Among the rookies, 38.5 percent said shooting was the most important skill they needed to develop, while 31.5 percent called LeBron James their favorite player.

But Smith's selection as the future Rookie of the Year was the most fascinating, especially since the players voted Ball and Tatum more likely to have the best NBA careers. While Smith tied for third there with Phoenix Suns forward Josh Jackson at 10.5 percent, the rookies clearly felt Smith was in a better position to contribute immediately in Dallas but that Ball and Tatum had greater upside.

Certainly, Smith impressed in six summer-league games, averaging 17.3 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists. And one of his fellow rookies noted that his upside is tied to "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."

Plus, he should see plenty of playing time in Dallas, where he's the presumed starter at point guard and will be surrounded by a solid supporting class (especially if the team and restricted free agent Nerlens Noel come to a contract agreement). So Smith has all of the ingredients in place to put together a Rookie of the Year campaign.

As Schuhmann noted, however, the rookies have only once correctly projected the Rookie of the Year winner. That came in the first year of the survey in 2007, when Kevin Durant took home the award.