Forget a sophomore slump, Dallas Mavericks Dennis Smith Jr. is looking at the possibility of a sophomore shipment as the NBA trade deadline approaches on Feb. 7.
According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the 20-23 Mavs are looking for trade partners to ship off the second-year point guard. A reason as to why Dallas would make such a move remains unknown, but Smith has sat out the past three games due to a sore back. That's at least what the Mavericks have described it as.
Selected ninth overall out of NC State during the 2017 NBA Draft, Smith quickly developed into a highlight-reel-making floor general thanks to an ability to drive to the rim and finish at the basket. He averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists per game last season, finishing fifth in the league's Rookie of the Year voting.
- PHOTOS: NYC 2019 Pride Parade31 Pictures
Smith has experienced some regression in his game during his second year, which could be a byproduct of the arrival of star rookie and Luka Doncic, who is posting 20.2 points per game while playing both point guard and power forward. In just 28 games due to a nagging wrist injury, Smith is putting up 12.6 points and 3.9 assists per night.
It may be Doncic's rise that has landed Smith on the trading block as the 21-year-old could be viewed as expendable by the Mavericks, who still have a bit of rebuilding to do as they sit in 13th-place in the Western Conference. Trading Smith now while his stock is still high will only help move things along in Dallas.
There likely will be no shortage of teams who would be interested in Smith. Wojnarowski initially reported that the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic are speaking with Mavericks management.
Rod Beard of the Detroit News reported that the Pistons are also interested, but it is "mild." However, he did provide a glimpse of what the Mavericks might be asking for, which includes a first-round pick.
Could the Knicks make a move for Smith before the NBA trade deadline?
While it has not been reported that the Knicks are involved in Smith talks, yet, New York could be a potential suitor for the point guard.
As it stands, the Knicks have a logjam of sorts at the position with Frank Ntilikina, Emmanuel Mudiay, and Trey Burke gunning for minutes at the 1. However, both Mudiay and Burke will be free agents at the end of the season and their pseudo-resurgences with the Knicks could see them asking for more pricy deals. While the Knicks would have the money to re-sign either, it depends on if they want to dip into the 2019 cap space created for free agency this summer where they could bring in some big-time names.
Smith is under team control through 2021 and the Knicks showed plenty of interest in him during the pre-draft process. Yet they chose to take Ntilikina just one spot before Smith went to Dallas.
The decision so far has been questionable as Ntilikina's offensive game has been extremely slow to develop, although he has shown a knack for strong defensive play. It's caused plenty of Knicks fans to rush to the Frenchman's defense, stating that his defense is providing enough promise to keep the experiment going.
Oddly enough though, Smith's career Defensive Win Shares (DWS) are almost double that of Ntilikina's at 2.5 compared to 1.3.
Ntilikina's name has popped up in trade talks as recently as a month ago, but the Knicks do not seem too keen on moving him even though he is nowhere near ready to be a regular starter at the NBA level. However, if he could be used in a package to bring in a talent like Smith, who has shown far more promise during his first two years in the league, then it could be something the Knicks might want to consider.
The Mavs could continue to develop Ntilikina behind Doncic, where there would be no rush of any kind to bring him up to a consistent, starting workload. If he does meet those pre-draft expectations of becoming a solid two-way point guard, Doncic could slot back at the power forward position and Ntilikina would be the team's starting point guard of the future.