Dennis smith Jr did not participate in any of the Mavericks 3 games this week with what was said to be a back injury, but now it appears the Mavericks may have been holding him out to preserve him for a potential trade. As Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday night, the Mavericks have been active in Dennis Smith Jr Trade talks, particularly with the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic, two teams in need of a point guard.
Based on a follow-up article by Woj and Tim MacMahon, it sounds like Dallas is pretty insistent on moving Wes Matthews $18 million expiring contract as well.
A year ago we all said how lucky we were to grab a dynamic young point guard of the future with the #9 pick in the 2017 draft. Now, with Dennis Smith Jr barely 21 years old and on a rookie deal where he is earning $3.8M, $4.5M, and $5.7M (team option) in 2017, 2018, and 2019, the Mavericks are trying to move him? DSJ had a very good rookie season last year, averaging 15 points, 5 assists, and 4 rebounds per game on a team intentionally devoid of surrounding talent. This season Dennis is averaging a lesser 12.6 points per game but is doing so on 4 fewer shots per game with a huge bump in shooting efficiency. The improvement in shooting efficiency and defensive tenacity have been a welcome sight by my eyes. Not to the scale of the great Luka Dončić, but I also think Dennis is at his best when the game is on the line. Young, cheap talent is hard to come by and is a great asset in front office team building. For the Mavericks to want to move on from DSJ there must either be a rift between he and Luka, or a rift between he and Head Coach Rick Carlisle.
I don’t think the Mavericks should move on from Dennis Smith Jr this soon. But if Woj says they are shopping him, it must be true. Speculating on trades of one of my favorite players is not something I thought I would be entertaining this year, but apparently that’s where we are.
This is the Dallas Mavericks current contract situation. We have a ton of expiring contracts, beyond this season the only players under contract are Harrison Barnes (player option), Dwight Powell (Player Option), Luka Dončić, Dennis Smith Jr, Jalen Brunson, Ryan Broekhoff and Ray Spalding. This is a total of $51.8M of contracts on the books for 2019 for players with an average age of 24.3. If you exclude Ryan Broekhoff at age 28, the oldest player of those under contract for 2019-2020 is Dwight Powell who, believe it or not, is actually older than Harrison Barnes.
That would give the Mavericks an estimated $57M in cap space this summer to build around an incredibly talented young core. I know the goal is to make the playoffs this season, but at what cost? It would be very near sighted to take on any unnecessary long-term contracts just to make a push this season when we are going to be so liquid and so talented beyond this season. Not to mention the plethora of top level free agents set to be available: Top Free Agent List.
Dallas Mavericks Contracts
Color Key: Player Option, Team Option
With all of that said about the prospects of upcoming free-agency, if the Mavericks are really shopping Dennis Smith Jr, what kind of value can we see in return? According to the reports, the primary trade partners in talks so far have been the Orlando Magic and the Phoenix Suns: All trades verified by ESPN NBA Trade Machine.
Orlando Magic Contracts
Orlando Magic Potential Trades
Dallas Mavericks Trade: Dennis Smith Jr
Orlando Magic Trade: Mo Bamba
DSJ for Bamba, straight-up. The Orlando Magic have a log jam in the front court. The Magic’s main building blocks are all forwards or centers: Mo Bamba, Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and Jonathan Isaac. Dennis Smith Jr would be a welcome addition to the Magic as they severely lack playmaking. Bamba on the other hand could be a long time rim runner and rim protector along side Slovenian Sensation Luka Dončić. This would also help the Mavericks by allowing them to avoid taking on any big/bad contracts. Similarly to DSJ, Bamba has missed the past several games with a mysterious foot injury. Now it may just be coincidence, or it may be that these two are being held out because they are the center of trade talks. The combination of Luka and Bamba is a pretty intriguing duo, I have to admit.
Dallas Mavericks Trade: Dennis Smith Jr and Wesley Matthews
Orlando Magic Trade: Aaron Gordon and Jerian Grant
Aaron Gordon only 23 years old and coming off a 2017-2018 season where he averaged 17.6 points, 8 rebounds, and 2.3 assists. His numbers have dipped a bit this season after signing a 4yr/$76M contract this past summer despite increasing his shooting efficiency across the board. Another upside is that although we would be losing the incredible aerial acrobatics of DSJ, we would be adding the thunderous jams of Aaron Gordon. Moving out of the aforementioned log jam and into the free flowing Mavericks offense could be a catalyst to Aaron Gordon expanding his skills. I like the player, but I am scared of the contract.
Phoenix Suns Contracts
Phoenix Suns Potential Trades
Dallas Mavericks Trade: Dennis Smith Jr, Wesley Matthews, and Dwight Powell.
Phoenix Suns Trade: Mikal Bridges, T.J. Warren, and Ryan Anderson.
In this situation the Mavericks are able to move on from Wes Matthews and Dwight Powell, acquire some good young talent in Bridges (22) and Warren (25), but they would have to take on the $20M of Ryan Anderson for this season and $15M for next season. I hate taking on the bad Anderson contract but you would be getting two very good contracts with Bridges (rookie deal) and Warren (4 yr/$50M). Mikal Bridges has shown great promise in his rookie season as a defensive menace and floor spacer, while TJ Warren is averaging 18.5 ppg on 49% shooting including 43% from downtown.
Another Suns trade piece that is intriguing for this season is 38 year old Jamal Crawford who is on a $2.3M expiring contract and would provide a much needed scoring punch off the bench with the loss of JJ Barea to a torn achilles. The timing makes all of the sense in the world here as Crawford is first eligible to be traded today, January 15th, after being restricted to trade for the 3 months following his October signing with the Suns.
Trading Dennis Smith Jr would be a sad day for a lot of Mavericks fans. He is a ton of fun to watch and I don’t think he has scratched the surface of the player he will eventually become. But if Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle decide that is the best course of action, I just hope they don’t compromise the future by trying to expedite this Championship process too quickly.