There’s no doubt that player movement is a vital part of today’s NBA. If a player is unhappy in their current situation and wants a trade, word will definitely get out. Social media only adds fuel to the fire, and after we’ve had our Kyrie Irvings, Eric Bledsoes, and Kawhi Leonards, we now have another: Dennis Smith Jr.
This case of the disgruntled player contrasts the cases of Irving and Leonard, who wanted out of Cleveland and San Antonio respectively, as they were established superstars in their cities and have tasted championship success before. Smith Jr. is in the second year of his professional career, and after getting selected at #9 in last year’s draft, already sees the writing on the Dallas wall.
Irving wanted to get out of LeBron James’ shadow. Kawhi had problems with the way the Spurs handled his rehabilitation process. In Dallas, Luka Doncic is a once-in-a-generation player.
Despite being a lottery pick and only having spent about a year and a half with the Mavericks, Smith Jr. knows he doesn’t fit in Dallas’ long-term plans. Doncic doesn’t need the ball to be effective, but Smith Jr. does. The organization’s perception of Doncic was clear when they gave up a first-round pick to acquire him, and since living up to the hype, Doncic has inadvertently forced Smith Jr. out.
Two teams desperately need a point guard: the Orlando Magic and the Phoenix Suns. But which fit is better for the sophomore lottery pick?
The Magic haven’t had a good point guard since prime Jameer Nelson, and after giving up on Elfrid Payton, Orlando now has 11-year veteran, DJ Augustin running the show. Augustin is better-suited as a backup guard, especially at this stage in his career, which means the Magic could give Dennis Smith Jr. the keys.
At first glance, the fit could be great. Smith Jr. is an incredibly athletic guard who would be paired with an incredibly athletic forward in Aaron Gordon. Having both players in transition would be terrifying for a defense, and if Smith Jr. increases his playmaking and decision-making skills, this theoretical Magic offense could be a highlight reel.
Also pairing Smith Jr. with Nikola Vucevic in a pick-and-roll would force Smith Jr. to improve where he lacks, as well as attack the rim — the place where he shines. Smith Jr. is a young prospect that needs a system where he’s comfortable to mold him. Coach Steve Clifford has had success with Kemba Walker in Charlotte, and while Walker is a much better scorer than Smith Jr., they’re both undersized at the point guard spot.
The question is, who would the Magic have to give up in order to get a promising 21-year-old? How about a 21-year-old of their own in Jonathan Issac?
Issac is a combo forward who could replace Smith Jr. as one of Dallas’ prospects, and could find his game with Doncic leading the way. A straight-up swap is probably unlikely, but it’s not hard to see how Smith Jr. could thrive in Orlando.
Phoenix fired their general manager, Ryan McDonough after struggling to find a starting point guard this past offseason.
Devin Booker has shown capability of running the point, and the Suns have also obtained the services of second-round pick, De’Anthony Melton, but Smith Jr. could be the go-to point guard for Phoenix.
Booker can run the pick-and-roll with rookie big man, Deandre Ayton, but having Smith Jr. would increase Phoenix’s points of attack. Ayton is an offensively-gifted center, and again, Smith Jr.’s athleticism forces defenders to stay honest, but with Booker on the wing as another option? The 29th-ranked offense in the league could see improvement.
Smith Jr. also fits the Suns’ timeline, as they’re an 11-35 team but have Booker and Ayton as franchise cornerstones. This team has a long way to go before being capable of making any type of noise, but should Booker, Ayton and Smith Jr. all develop, the Suns would be looking at a high ceiling.
If Smith Jr. is traded alongside the recently-injured JJ Barea, the Mavs could look at getting TJ Warren in return — a 6’8 forward who has developed into an 18-point-per-game scorer in Phoenix. Smith Jr. gets out of his current situation, and Dallas receives a ready-to-contribute scorer in Warren — who says no?