Dennis Smith Jr.

Trail Blazers Sign Dennis Smith Jr. To Camp Deal

Former lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. has signed a contract with the Trail Blazers to attend training camp, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). While Wojnarowski doesn’t provide specifics on Smith’s contract details, it sounds like it’ll be a non-guaranteed one-year deal, giving him a chance to compete for a roster spot.

The ninth overall pick in the 2017 draft, Smith began his career in Dallas and had a promising rookie season for the Mavericks, averaging 15.2 PPG and 5.2 APG as the team’s starting point guard. However, he struggled with his shooting efficiency and was traded to New York in his second season in the deal that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas.

Smith never really found his footing with the Knicks and was eventually dealt to the Pistons in February of this year after spending two seasons in New York. Detroit opted not to issue a qualifying offer to DSJ at season’s end, so he became an unrestricted free agent and took a month to find a new home.

In 179 total NBA games, Smith has averaged 11.8 PPG and 4.4 APG on .400/.316/.652 shooting in 25.2 minutes per contest.

The Trail Blazers currently only have 13 players on guaranteed contracts and will have to carry at least 14 during the regular season, so there’s a path to a roster spot for Smith. However, I’d expect Portland to invite a few more players to camp to compete for that 14th spot. The team, which is now over the tax line, may begin the season with its 15th spot open to avoid paying an extra salary.

And-Ones: Smith, Biyombo, Spurs, Hall, Almansa, Trade Market

The Pistons officially renounced their rights to Wayne Ellington, who has signed with the Lakers, and Dennis Smith Jr., according to the RealGM transactions log. The Hornets renounced four players, including Bismack Biyombo, while the Spurs renounced their rights to a whopping 13 players. San Antonio’s list includes Donatas Motiejunas and David Lee, who haven’t appeared in an NBA game for years. Renouncing those rights allows teams to maximize their cap room in free agency.

We have more from the basketball world:

  • Donta Hall has signed with France’s Betclic Elite side AS Monaco, Sportando relays. Hall, who turns 24 on Saturday, played 13 games with the Magic this past season on two 10-day contracts and an end-of-the-season deal via the hardship exception. The power forward also played a total of nine games for the Pistons and Nets in 2019/20.
  • Overtime Elite has added another top European prospect. Izan Almansa has signed with the league, Jonathan Givony of ESPN tweets. The 6’9” Almansa, a 16-year old Spanish power forward, is the second player OTE has signed from Real Madrid’s youth program and seventh international prospect.
  • While free agency is winding down, the trade market could continue to percolate in the coming weeks, John Hollinger of The Athletic writes. Ben Simmons and Damian Lillard top the list of stars who could be on the move, while the Raptors and Magic are teams to watch, with the latter possibly taking on an onerous contract in order to acquire future assets.
  • The ESPN duo of Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks also take a look at unresolved storylines this month involving free agency, the trade market and potential extensions.

Free Agent Rumors: Iguodala, Oubre, Williams, Smith

A reunion between the Warriors and defensive specialist Andre Iguodala could be in the works. Iguodala has narrowed his choices to his former team along with the Nets and Lakers, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Iguodala, 37, played 63 regular-season games with the Heat this past season and averaged a modest 4.4 PPG in 21.3 MPG, with a majority of his field-goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. Iguodala won three rings in six seasons with the Warriors.

We have more free agent buzz:

  • Free agent forward Kelly Oubre is in discussions with the Hornets, David Aldridge of The Athletic tweets. Oubre averaged 15.4 PPG and 6.0 RPG for Golden State last season but only made 31.6% of his 3-point attempts. The Hornets are also reportedly pondering an offer sheet to Bulls free agent Lauri Markkanen — with approximately $14MM in cap room remaining, they wouldn’t be able to sign both players unless one accepted a very team-friendly rate.
  • Before Lou Williams chose to return to the Hawks, the Lakers, Warriors and Bucks showed interest in the three-time Sixth Man of the Year award, according to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. Williams opted for a one-year, $5MM agreement with Atlanta.
  • Free agent guard Dennis Smith Jr. won’t return to the Pistons, Marc Berman of the New York Post tweets. That’s no surprise, considering Detroit drafted Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick and reached an agreement with Cory Joseph after declining its team option on him.

Pistons Notes: Smith Jr., Grant, Draft, Free Agency

The Pistons traded for Dennis Smith Jr. in early February, but they still didn’t get as much time as they had hoped to evaluate his future, writes Keith Langlois of NBA.com. Smith battled injuries after coming to Detroit, including left knee soreness that sidelined him for the final 19 games of the season.

Smith showed some promise in the 20 games he was able to play, averaging 7.3 points per game and shooting a career-best 35.2% from three-point range. His qualifying offer would be worth $7MM+, so it’s likely that he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, especially considering the development of point guards Killian Hayes and Saben Lee.

 “It’s been tough because this was the time for him to go out and show and be evaluated and get extended playing time,” coach Dwane Casey said in April. “It’s unfortunate he’s been hurt, but injury is something you have to deal with. We just have to figure out another way where we can evaluate him.”

There’s more from Detroit:

  • The three-year, $60MM contract the Pistons gave to Jerami Grant was among the most surprising moves in free agency, but he rewarded their confidence by finishing second in this year’s Most Improved Player voting, says Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. Grant averaged 22.3 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 blocks per game and was the runner-up to the Knicks’ Julius Randle. Grant recently told Sankofa that he plans to take another step forward next year. “I definitely prepare different this offseason,” Grant said. “I think every offseason I prepare differently, my roles change pretty much from year to year. I think it’s a new role for me, so I know what I need to work on.”
  • The Pistons would be fine with either Evan Mobley or Jalen Green if they keep the No. 2 pick in the draft, according to Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Mobley is a seven-footer with the skills of a smaller player and plenty of value as a rim protector. Green could fill a need at shooting guard and could help as a shot creator.
  • Detroit isn’t expected to be active on the free agent market, Beard adds in the same piece. General manager Troy Weaver recently said the Pistons don’t expect to have many roster spots available, and Beard believes the team will focus on keeping its own free agents.

Injury Notes: Hornets, Huerter, Warren, DSJ, Bagley

The Hornets will see if LaMelo Ball and Malik Monk are ready for game action during their off days Thursday and Friday, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Ball had surgery March 23 on his fractured right wrist, while Monk has been sidelined since April 1 with a sprained ankle. Both players will take part in 2-on-2 and 3-on-3 scrimmages over the next two days.

The news isn’t as encouraging for Gordon Hayward, Bonnell adds. He’s still wearing a protective boot on his injured right foot and there’s no timetable for him to start working out. “Gordon is not there yet,” coach James Borrego said.

Here are some more injury-related notes and updates:

  • The Hawks are getting a second opinion on Kevin Huerter‘s sprained left shoulder, tweets Sarah K. Spencer of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Huerter underwent an MRI this week, but the results haven’t been announced.
  • Pacers forward T.J. Warren, who will miss the rest of the season with a stress fracture in his left foot, began jogging today on a treadmill, according to Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (Twitter link). Coach Nate Bjorkgren called it “a big step” for the 27-year-old forward.
  • Dennis Smith Jr. hasn’t been able to practice lately and the Pistons don’t have a timeline for him to return from left knee soreness, tweets Rod Beard of The Detroit News. “That’s why it’s so important that Killian (Hayes) came back,” said coach Dwane Casey. “… It’s unfortunate that he’s been hurt, but injury is something you have to deal with.”
  • Marvin Bagley III could return soon from his hand injury, Kings coach Luke Walton tells James Ham of NBC Sports (Twitter link). Bagley has participated in some 3-on-3 games and may be ready to start playing in the next few days.

Pistons Notes: Diallo, Mykhailiuk, Smith, Plumlee

The Pistons agreed to a trade with the Thunder on Friday in which they’ll acquire guard Hamidou Diallo in exchange for swingman Svi Mykhailiuk and a 2027 second-round pick. According to James Edwards III of The Athletic, the Pistons have pursued Diallo since Troy Weaver, a longtime Oklahoma City executive, was named GM. They currently can’t extend Diallo’s contract at a reasonable price for six months after acquiring him in a trade, but they intend to re-sign him in restricted free agency.

We have more from the Pistons:

  • Weaver essentially chose to make Diallo a long-term priority over Mykhailiuk — also a restricted free agent after the season — because of Diallo’s superior athleticism and length, according to Rod Beard of the Detroit News. Diallo better fits the mold of players that Weaver has added to the roster, Beard notes.
  • Guard Dennis Smith Jr. won’t play against Brooklyn on Saturday due to the league’s health and safety protocols, Edwards tweets. Smith, an unrestricted free agent after the season unless he receives a $7MM+ qualifying offer, filled in as the starting point guard with Delon Wright sidelined for a few games prior to the All-Star break. He returned to the bench as Wright’s backup in the first game after the break against Charlotte.
  • Many eyebrows were raised when the Pistons signed Mason Plumlee to a three-year, $25MM contract in free agency, despite the fact that he was a backup in Denver. Plumlee has validated Detroit’s decision while averaging 10.4 PPG, 9.1 RPG and 3.8 APG as a starter. Coach Dwane Casey lobbied Weaver to sign Plumlee, as Keith Langlois of the team’s website writes. “Coach Casey, this was his No. 1 guy he really wanted for our ballclub because of the different skills he brings, the experience, the locker-room presence,” Weaver said.

Pistons GM Weaver Talks Deadline, Casey, Hayes, More

Speaking today to reporters, including James Edwards III of The Athletic and Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said that he plans to remain aggressive at the trade deadline, but doesn’t anticipate it being nearly as eventful as the 2020 offseason, when the front office overhauled nearly Detroit’s entire roster.

“I wouldn’t expect a bunch of fireworks, but we’re going to be aggressive and comb the league and look at things to see if we can get better,” Weaver said. “But I don’t anticipate as much activity as we had in November. It would be kind of hard to top that.”

Weaver addressed a series of other topics during his media session, praising head coach Dwane Casey for the player-development work he has done this season and stating that there will be an update on injured point guard Killian Hayes (hip) next week. The Pistons’ GM added that the team intends to take a “long, long look” at Dennis Smith Jr. and that he likes what he has seen so far.

Here are a few more of the most notable quotes from Weaver’s presser, via Edwards and Langlois:

On whether anyone on the roster is off-limits via trade:

“No. Nobody is untouchable. … I learned, ‘Never say never,’ but there are some guys who are here to stay, so we’ll see. … I’ll say this guy is untouchable and then someone calls and offers four first-round picks. Strange things have happened.”

On whether Mason Plumlee might be traded at the deadline:

“Mason has been tremendous. Coach Casey … this was his No. 1 guy that he really wanted for our ball club because of the different skills he brings, experience and locker room presence, and Casey was dead on. This guy has been tremendous for us. He’s really helped the young guys, really stepped his game up.

“… As far as the trade deadline, I’m not sure what’s going to come our way with Mason. We’re extremely happy with him right now.”

On why Weaver uses the team “restore” rather than the more-common “rebuild”:

“My dad, he used to collect older cars, and he had a 1966 Monte Carlo that he was restoring. Before he passed, I would go out there and talk with him. He said, ‘You can only restore something that is great.’ That stuck with me.

“There’s been greatness in Detroit. Three championships. That’s why I wanted to use it. No slight to what I’m about to say, but the Timberwolves can’t restore. They don’t have three championships. They don’t have the greatness. The Atlanta Hawks can’t restore. The Detroit Pistons can restore. We want to restore greatness back in the franchise.”

Central Notes: D. Smith, LeVert, Wade, Bulls

Pistons guard Dennis Smith Jr., acquired in a trade with the Knicks on February 7, has shown flashes since that deal of the potential that made him a lottery pick in 2017. Smith has averaged 8.3 PPG, 3.2 RPG, 3.8 APG, and 1.3 SPG for Detroit, and had his best game on Wednesday, putting up a triple-double with 10 points, 11 rebounds and 12 assists in a win over the Raptors.

Smith and teammate Mason Plumlee were the first Pistons players to put triple-doubles in the same game in 57 years (link via Pistons.com). Before joining his new team, Smith had only played in three games for the Knicks this season and had requested to play in the G League.

Here’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Pacers guard Caris LeVert has progressed to doing practice drills, and 1-on-1 training, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. LeVert underwent surgery to remove a previously unknown kidney cancer in January after being traded to the Pacers in the four-team trade that sent James Harden to Brooklyn.
  • Cavaliers second-year forward Dean Wade, who recently had his 2020/21 salary guaranteed, has started in the last five games after no prior starts in his first 35 NBA games. Most recently, he had 17 points and six rebounds against the Pacers on Wednesday. “I never doubted myself,” Wade said, via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “Obviously, through the whole journey, every once in a while, you’re going to think, ‘Can I do it?’… “I’ve always believed in myself.”
  • Tension between a head coach and a GM has been a recurring theme for Jerry Reinsdorf‘s franchises over the years, but there doesn’t seem to be any drama between new Bulls president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas and head coach Billy Donovanwrites Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “I think he’s doing a great job,” Karnisovas said of Donovan. “I’ve watched all the media availabilities by him… And I think the one question that’s always coming up is, ‘When do they meet? When do they talk?’ We talk every day. We talk before every practice, we spend time during practices, talk after practices, before games, after games, so the communication is always there. I expected that, and more so, there’s no misunderstandings from my side or his side.” 

Eastern Notes: Smith Jr., Hill, Hornets, Heat

Pistons guard Dennis Smith Jr. has looked reborn during his time with the team so far, proving to be reasonably effective in his first nine games, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes.

Smith, who was traded to Detroit from New York earlier this month, has averaged 7.9 points and 3.2 assists in 18.6 minutes per contest since the move. The two teams are set to meet on Sunday night from Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.

“Truth be told, you never want to get too comfortable because you end up being complacent,” Smith said. “But you can definitely tell when the feel for the game starts to comes back, especially from the situation I was coming from. I can feel my feel coming back for me.”

There’s more from the Eastern Conference today:

  • Hawks forward Solomon Hill said the Heat never made an offer to retain him in free agency, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Hill, who wound up signing a one-year deal with Atlanta, has averaged 4.5 PPG and 2.4 RPG in 18.9 MPG in 33 games this season.
  • The Hornets are set to be without several players for their game against the Kings on Sunday night, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer writes. Gordon Hayward (right hand contusion) and Cody Zeller (left hip contusion) have both been downgraded to doubtful. Their absences would leave the club with just nine available players for the contest due to various injuries, Bonnell notes.
  • One of the Heat‘s top “bubble lineups” is finally back in place, Barry Jackson writes for The Miami Herald. The team has won five straight contests and is working to bounce back from a COVID- and injury-riddled start to the season, playing the 14-19 Hawks on Sunday night.

Central Notes: LaVine, Young, Lamb, Nance, Pistons

Zach LaVine is enjoying a career year in Billy Donovan‘s first season with the Bulls, and the success of that pairing bodes well for the team’s long-term outlook, says K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Donovan won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, and word around the NBA suggests that LaVine won’t be either, Johnson adds.

With LaVine expected to be unavailable on the trade market in the coming weeks, the Bulls’ most valuable trade chip could be Thaddeus Young. ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) says a handful of league executives identified Young as a player who could impact the playoff race if he’s moved, noting that he’s a versatile big man on a reasonable contract who has plenty of postseason experience.

The Bulls currently hold the sixth seed in the East and figure to be in the mix for a playoff spot – perhaps via the play-in tournament – but Marks argues the club should take a big-picture view and consider moving Young, especially if a team is willing to give up a first-round pick for him.

Johnson, on the other hand, contends in a separate NBC Sports Chicago story that moving Young for anything short of a lottery pick or a very promising young player might be a mistake. As Johnson explains, the veteran forward has had a positive impact on LaVine on and off the court, and LaVine and the Bulls’ other young players need to get some postseason experience at some point — Young could play an important role in helping get them there.

Here’s more from around the Central:

  • It has been a full year since Jeremy Lamb suffered a torn left ACL, and while it takes some players a while to get back to 100% following that injury, the Pacers guard has thrived since making his season debut on January 20, writes Wheat Hotchkiss of Pacers.com. Lamb is averaging 12.2 PPG in just 24.7 minutes per contest, and has made an even 50% of his three-point attempts through 17 games. “It’s great to see how far I’ve been able to come,” Lamb said. “I’m still getting stronger, still working on it, but it’s encouraging.”
  • Cavaliers forward Larry Nance Jr., who underwent surgery on his hand earlier this month, is making positive progress and recently had his cast removed, tweets Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Nance was ruled out at least six weeks when he underwent the procedure, so we won’t see him back until sometime after the All-Star break.
  • Missing their top two point guards, the Pistons are seeing some positive signs from Dennis Smith Jr. and Saben Lee, says Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Lee, who has averaged 15.3 PPG and 4.3 APG in his last three games, is showing why GM Troy Weaver referred to him as part of Detroit’s “core four” of rookie building blocks, despite the fact that Lee was a second-round pick who signed a two-way deal, writes Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.