If the NBA has taught us anything within the past few years, it is to not get comfortable with seeing players in the same jersey for an extended amount of time.
Even with that said, given the successful rookie campaign that Dennis Smith Jr. provided last season, it could come as a surprise to Dallas Mavericks fans who have seen his name in trade discussions recently.
The Dallas Mavericks are escalating discussions to find a trade for point guard Dennis Smith Jr., league sources tell ESPN. Phoenix and Orlando have engaged in ongoing talks with Mavs. Smith Jr., has sat out three straight games with what team has termed a sore back.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 15, 2019
When Dallas drafted Smith Jr. with the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the expectation was for him to be the future for the Mavericks’ backcourt as lead guard.
Smith Jr. did not disappoint, averaging 15.2 points per game (fifth amongst rookies, 5.2 assists (third amongst rookies) 3.8 rebounds per game, and 1.0 steals per game (tied fourth amongst rookies) in his first year as a pro.
He would finish fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting and would earn his spot on the All-Rookie Second-Team.
Smith Jr. has had his fair share of struggles this season but still can offer the same level of explosion.
As seen here.
This is just where Dennis Smith Jr. thrives. Tough to contain when he gets a head of steam.
— Basketball Society (@BBallSociety_) January 5, 2019
When it all changed:
Given the promise that he showed heading into the season, the Mavericks still needed to give him a running mate.
Dallas would decide to go with the top international (and possibly overall) prospect of the 2018 NBA Draft in Luka Doncic.
Doncic has been nothing short of magnificent this season, as he came out of the first return of All-Star votes with the second most votes in the Western Conference. The last rookie to make an All-Star roster was Bake Griffin back in 2011.
Doncic leads all rookies with 20.2 points per game in addition to averaging 6.7 rebounds, and 5.0 assists a night.
So, with two great YOUNG talents in the backcourt, why trade away Smith Jr. after under a year experimenting with the two?
With Smith Jr.’s role of being the primary ball handler changing this year as he has had to share responsibilities with Doncic, it has led to disagreements and bit of a tarnished relationship between himself and head coach Rick Carlisle.
Sources tell @TheAthletic @WatchStadium: Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle apologized to Dennis Smith Jr. in phone conversation, expressing remorse over situation. The Mavericks have made clear Smith has been positive presence for them. https://t.co/1BJEJrCfxJ
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) January 21, 2019
The Mavericks are optimistic that Smith Jr. and Carlisle will be able to work past this issue. However, they will still be entertaining trade packages for the prized guard, only if such a trade contains ‘good value.’
So, what teams might be interested in the second year player?
The city of Phoenix has been in search of another guard to pair with franchise player Devin Booker for quite some time.
After addressing the help on the wing and the interior with the lengthy Mikal Bridges and big man DeAndre Ayton in the most recent NBA Draft, they can now tun turn their attention to finding a point guard.
Pheonix can offer a package that involves swingman Josh Jackson, and Kelly Oubre. The Mavericks lack athleticism on the wing and adding two players who can help in that department may spark Dallas’ interest.
With the Mavericks sending Smith Jr. out in this trade, they can offer more minutes to their rookie guard Jalen Brunson. Brunson offers a high basketball IQ and good decision making and could be a nice short-term paring next to Doncic.
New York Knicks:
Before last years draft the New York Knicks needed a point guard and decided on international guard Frank Ntilikina with the No. 8 overall pick over Smith Jr.
The Knicks are struggling this year without their Latvian superstar Kristaps Porzingis and guard Tim Hardaway Jr. has had to pick up the scoring responsibilties.
However, in order to land a player like Smith Jr., Hardaway Jr. would most likely be a part of the trade along with Ntilikina.
To go along with Smith Jr., the Mavericks would most likely send out veteran guard Wesley Matthews as well to sweaten the deal.
Dennis Smith Jr. trade rumors: Knicks and Mavs have discussed a Smith Jr. and Wes Matthews swap in exchange for Tim Hardaway, Jr. & Frank Ntilikina. pic.twitter.com/SgVUzpsk3y
— Brandon Robinson (@ScoopB) January 15, 2019
The Mavericks would get an all-international backcourt with Ntilikina and Doncic. The playmaking ability along with the unselfish playstyle and defensive upside that Ntilikina has makes for a perfect marriage between the two guards.
Much like Phoenix, the Magic are in desperate need of a point guard. They have an abundance of frontcourt talent after selecting Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac in the past two NBA Drafts to go alongside bigs Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon.
While Vucevic is playing on an expiring contract, the Magic seem to be willing to let him walk to give some of the young bigs more minutes while also freeing up cap space.
Smith Jr.’s fit would be seemless as he would take full control of all ball-handling responsibilties.
Orlando does not have a premier scoring threat at the guard position, as their leading scoring guard is Evan Fournier who averages 14.9 points per game.
Pairing Smith Jr. with Fournier wouldn’t be a bad idea as Fournier works well off the ball scoring 4.8 of his points off of catch-and-shoot scenarios.
In order for the Magic to pull this off, it will most likely mean that they would have to move a big. Seeing as how Dallas would not want Vucevic’s expiring contract, they would most likely ask for a package centered around Gordon or Isaac plus cash considerations.
The Magic would get their backcourt for the future in Smith Jr. and Fournier as well as getting their youthful big men more minutes in the hope of building something special in the ‘Magic Kingdom’.
I see him playing for the Orlando Magic. For all of the reasons listed above plus the fact that he can be very effective under head coach Steve Clifford. C
Clifford coached Kemba Walker who has gone on to become an All-Star in the Eastern Conference. The same path and outlook for Smith Jr. is capable given his ability that he showcased in his rookie season.