Dennis Smith Jr. admits he “definitely has a chip on my shoulder,” which might be one of his strongest attributes entering this NBA draft.
The 6-3 point guard out of N.C. State has been linked to the New York Knicks, who own the No. 8 pick in Thursday’s draft, and to the Dallas Mavericks, who pick next at No. 9.
If he falls that far, Smith may end up making the teams that picked ahead of him regret it.
“I want to win Rookie of the Year,” he said Wednesday at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on NBA draft media day. “Not too many (individual) accolades, I just want to come in and be the best teammate I can be be, the best player I can be and I think everything else will take care of itself.”
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Smith, who averaged 18.1 points, 6.2 assists and 4.6 rebounds in his lone season with the Wolfpack, was asked questions about potentially playing for the Knicks and in New York. The Knicks are in need of a lead guard and have been linked to Smith and French point guard Frank Ntilikina, who flew in to New York Tuesday night and met with Knicks president Phil Jackson Wednesday morning.
“It’s hard to even imagine because your dream is to play in the NBA,” Smith said of playing for the Knicks. “With Madison Square Garden and the history that it has, to be able to do it here, is just a crazy feeling.”
Smith met with Jackson last week and the two had dinner, but he did not work out for the Knicks. He said it was an “agent thing.”
He also met with the Los Angeles Lakers, who pick at No. 2 and have been linked to UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, and with the Boston Celtics, who pick at No. 3 and are targeting wings like Duke’s Jayson Tatum and Kansas’ Josh Jackson.
Smith had a pro day last week at N.C. State where he worked out for six teams, including the Knicks.
“They came to watch my pro day, that was my workout with them,” he said of the Knicks.
The Knicks are reportedly open to trading 7-3 Latvian star Kristaps Porzingis, but Smith would love to play with him.
“I think it would be great,” he said. “He’s a really good player, one of the best bigs in the game, and I think we could help each other out a lot.”
The Knicks have emphasized the triangle offense with all of their targets because Jackson wants his team to utilize it. Smith isn’t deterred by that thought.
“It would be fine (by) me,” he said of the triangle. “Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan, they played in that system, they thrived in it. Two of the greatest players we’ve ever seen, I believe I can do the same thing.”
Smith Jr. has been compared to both Derrick Rose, a free agent after playing with the Knicks last season, and Oklahoma City star Russell Westbrook, and he believes both comparisons are fair.
“I would believe that’s a fair assessment,” he said. “I believe I’m one of the more athletic guys. Russell Westbrook is also the same, obviously at a higher level but I believe it’s a fair assessment. I put in the work so I’m deserving of the credit.”
Smith tore his ACL the summer before he enrolled at N.C. State. He then enrolled in January 2016 to get a head start on college. He says the knee isn’t an issue at all.
“Two months after my surgery, I was back dunking so my knee never really was a problem,” he said. “It was a freak injury and it motivated me to strengthen everything else around my leg so in turn I became more athletic, more explosive.”
As for his lone season at N.C. State, which ended with the firing of coach Mark Gottfried, he said, “A lot of the teams that I talked to, they know the situation that was going on at N.C. State. ... It was a just a rough year, we lost a lot of games.”
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: 7 p.m. Thursday