In my conversations with Brandon Payne, the founder of Accelerate Basketball, we’ve created a bridge between the last eight seasons he’s spent as Steph Curry’s personal trainer and the work he’s now doing this summer with Dennis Smith Jr. of the Dallas Mavericks. As you can read in Part 1 of our visit, Payne notes that:
*”(Steph and Dennis) are both hyper-competitive,” he says. “You have to be, to be successful in the NBA. … The first step to being a great player is to have that competitive fire, and they both certainly have that.”
*Smith Jr. is the rare talent to “really get me to divide my attention a little bit (away from his work with the Golden State Warriors superstar). I truly believe that Dennis has the ability to be an All-Star basketball player in the NBA. I think that sometime in the relatively-soon future, that has the possibility of happening for him. … Right now with Dennis, I don’t think you can even see his ceiling.”
*Considers Dennis’ BBIQ to be a strength, saying that it’s not just Smith Jr.’s physical gifts that have been impressive (see the ups, again, here); “He’s picked it up. I can call things out to him now and he can do it immediately. It’s hard to do … he has retained what he’s been taught, and that’s a really good sign. … He can be as good as he wants to be.”
Again, get Part 1 on Dennis Smith Jr. by clicking here. Now, three more aspects to the Junior/Mavs ties to Payne:
Aspect No. 1: The DeAndre Effect: In regard to Smith Jr.’s work-in-progress field-goal percentages last season as a rookie, Payne tells me that even though they’ve worked on some footwork concepts to help him out in this area as well, the roster addition of free agent center DeAndre Jordan could be the biggest boost of all.
“Having DeAndre around the basket is really going to keep those (defensive) guys that normally slide over, it’s going to keep them at home,” Payne says. “Ultimately, now, you’ll have the option just to throw the ball up close to the rim and DeAndre Jordan will be able to go get it. So, the help (defense) will come a little bit slower now.”
Which, of course, means more assists for Junior when he tosses it up … and more easy looks for Junior if defenses collapse.
Aspect No. 2: By The Numbers: So, given all the knowledge that Smith Jr. has soaked up this summer from a guy who has a hand in Steph Curry’s rise to stardom, what should we expect from Dennis in his second season with the Mavs? Payne thinks that, with just a few tweaks here and there, that Smith Jr. could be due for a breakout year.
“We’ve talked, at length, about how we only need to find, really, one additional field goal per game and two additional free throws per game, and you’re a 20-point scorer,” he says. “It’s attacking the rim with purpose. It’s attacking the rim, looking to create controllable contact.”
And with the individual numbers can come team success. At some point, hopefully soon, the Mavs will find themselves back in the NBA playoffs, a place they haven’t been in two consecutive seasons now. … And Payne believes that’s when we’ll see the best of Smith Jr. yet.
“I expect that competitiveness to be ratcheted up even more,” he says. “I think that would be a big moment for him, and I think that he’s a player that’s built for big moments. I truly believe that. …With Dennis, I don’t think you can even see his ceiling … He can be as good as he wants to be.”
Does this mean Junior can he be as good as Steph Curry, at least from an overall accomplishment standpoint? A better way of looking at it is that it means that Junior aspires to these heights. And there is more good news, as the torch is passed …
Aspect No 3. Steph to Junior … and Junior to Luka? Yes, it’s true. Payne is in discussions to begin working with Dallas’ other prized youngster, rookie Luka Doncic, too. …
Yes, Luka worked out with the guys on Sunday night. (See another photo and conversation here and here on DBcom Boards.) Says Payne: “We will be discussing future work (with Luka) in the near future.”
That’s a lot of work. That’s a lot of “future.” That’s a lot of Curry-level promise for the Dallas Mavericks.