Dennis Smith Jr. wants to be better at shooting the long ball in 2019-20.
The Knicks guard is changing the mechanics of his jump shot, and he’s already seeing results.
“It’s a big difference,” Smith told The Athletic on Thursday. “It’s a really big difference. I can feel it. Everybody can see it, from my pops and my friends. Adding that to my game and getting consistent, I think that’s going to open up the floor, not only for me but for everybody else and make my reads a lot easier. It’s major for me.”
Smith shot just 31.3% from behind the arc as a rookie but improved in 2018-19. However he made just 28.9% of his 3-point attempts after being dealt to New York by the Mavericks in a midseason trade in January.
The No. 9 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft sought out help from another North Carolina native in Rockets guard Chris Paul, who is a career 37% 3-point shooter. Paul only had positive things to say about Smith after working out with him in Las Vegas earlier this week.
“Dennis is special, special,” Paul said. “I think being here with Fiz (Knicks head coach David Fizdale), getting an opportunity to play, getting up and down, I was happy for him when he got traded to the Knicks last year because he got that New York grind in him.
“We were just talking about how as you learn the game more and more, it slows down for you. I think with Dennis, everything is confidence. Having Fiz backing him, and his teammates and all that, if he gets the city of New York behind him – you should have seen all of North Carolina behind him. He’s got it.”
Smith is developing other parts of his game besides shooting, according to his longtime trainer Ja-Rell Bailey.
“Just being able to be quicker left to right on defense,” Bailey said. “Working on the jump shot a lot, free throws a lot. Playing 94-foot offense and defense. Getting up the floor 30 times without breaking.”
Smith averaged 14.7 points and 5.4 assists in 21 appearances with the Knicks, who finished last in the Eastern Conference in 2018-19. But New York still has hope for its young core, which now includes RJ Barrett, the No. 3 pick in the 2019 draft.