Dennis Smith Jr.

And-Ones: Pay Cuts, Rookies, Returning Rights

The idea of an NBA player taking a pay cut in order to help a franchise save funds for other players is a noble one but it doesn’t always work out for the individuals who sign at a discount, Steve Kyler or Basketball Insiders writes.

Most recently, Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson was asked if he would consider taking less pay when he hits free agency in the summer of 2019, like his teammate Kevin Durant did this summer.

I probably could, yeah. That much? I don’t know. I don’t make as much as Kevin off the court,” Thompson told The Athletic. “If it’s a few million… It’s a blessing whatever contract I sign. I would definitely consider it cause I don’t want to lose anybody.”

Kyler discusses several cases of players who took pay cuts to play for a winner only to see that shot at a title quickly fade. Back in 2015, David West left eight digits on the table in order to chase a ring with the Spurs but ultimately came up short. The following summer he had to sign on with the Warriors instead, in order to take home a championship.

Jameer Nelson is another striking example of what can go wrong for a player. Nelson was bought out by the Magic in the summer of 2014 and turned around to sign at a discount with the Mavs. Dallas, however, shipped the veteran guard off less than two months into the 2014/15 campaign in the deal that landed them Rajon Rondo.

Of course there are success stories and Kyler references both Dirk Nowitzki and Dwyane Wade taking pay cuts to appease franchises that have supported them over the course of their careers. Tim Duncan is another example of a superstar that happily left money on the table in order to preserve the Spurs‘ financial flexibility.

There’s more from around the NBA:

  • While it’s only natural to get excited about the potential of the point guards at the top of the 2017 NBA Draft, don’t expect them to steamroll their way through the league right away. Kevin Pelton of ESPN (Insider) took a deep dive into the statistical projections of players like Lonzo Ball, Markelle Fultz and Dennis Smith Jr. only to conclude that genuinely performing as a Top 100 player in the NBA is exceedingly difficult for a first-year guard.
  • The NBA’s age limit has been a common talking point ever since it was implemented last decade but change could be inevitable, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders writes. The scribe writes that the prohibition of traditional high school seniors in the NBA draft isn’t about skill but rather about maturity. He also highlights the fact that many of the eligibility rules related to the NCAA-to-NBA pipeline come from the NCAA and not from the big league, itself.
  • Ever wonder what G League writers like Chris Reichert of 2 Ways, 10 Days are talking about when they refer to players’ returning rights? Consider the following an introduction to the contract mechanism and a crash course in who the most valuable players to whom returning rights apply currently are.

NBA GMs Weigh In On 2017/18 Season has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of asking each of the league’s 30 GMs an array of questions about the league’s top teams, players, and coaches. To no one’s surprise, the Warriors are viewed by the NBA’s general managers as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2017/18 championship, with 28 of 30 GMs (93%) picking Golden State to repeat.

While there are many responses in the GM survey worth checking out, we’ll focus on rounding up some of the more interesting ones related to rosters and player movement. Let’s dive in…

  • Although half of the league’s GMs picked LeBron James as the 2017/18 MVP winner, LeBron only finished third in voting for the player GMs would want to start a franchise with today. Karl-Anthony Towns (29%) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (21%) were the top vote-getters for that question.
  • NBA general managers loved the Thunder‘s acquisition of Paul George. George received 59% of the vote for which offseason addition would make the biggest impact, easily beating out Jimmy Butler (17%), Chris Paul (10%), and Kyrie Irving (7%). Additionally, Oklahoma City was chosen as the team that made the best offseason moves, with 43% of the vote. The Celtics (25%), Timberwolves (14%), and Rockets (11%) were runners-up.
  • The Nuggets‘ signing of Paul Millsap (24%) and the Pistons‘ trade for Avery Bradley (17%) were regarded by NBA GMs as the most underrated acquisitions of the summer.
  • The Timberwolves (69%) were the runaway choice for most improved team, beating out the Sixers (17%) and a handful of other clubs. Of course, it’s worth noting that Minnesota was also the GMs’ pick for that question a year ago.
  • While Dennis Smith Jr. of the Mavericks (37%) was voted the biggest steal of the 2017 draft, most GMs expect Lakers point guard Lonzo Ball (62%) to win the Rookie of the Year award.

Southwest Notes: Gay, Smith, Mavericks, Pelicans, Grizzlies

Rudy Gay‘s season in Sacramento ended abruptly last season due to a torn left Achilles tendon. After declining his $14.2MM option for 2017/18, Gay signed a two-year pact with the Spurs looking to reestablish himself. Early indicators for the 31-year-old are positive, Tom Osborn of San Antonio-Express News writes.

“I think he’s going to be great,” guard Danny Green said to Osborn. “He’s going to give us that versatility of playing four smalls (because) he can play inside and out and guard bigs. Once he gets into shape and gets comfortable with that Achilles, I think he’ll be great for us.”

Gay has a career average of 18.4 PPG in 11 NBA seasons. If he can regain his pre-injury form for the Spurs, San Antonio will have another productive scorer in their lineup. A scorer that Green compared to Kevin Durant due to his ability to quickly shoot the ball.

Below are additional news tidbits around the Southwest Division:

Southwest Notes: Rockets Sale, Grizzlies, Smith Jr.

The sale of the Rockets to a Texas billionaire will impact the entire NBA landscape, Kevin Pelton of ESPN (Insider) writes. The $2.2B price point, $550MM more than Forbes’ 2017 projection, may encourage other team owners to start exploring the idea of cashing out.

Until outgoing Rockets owner Les Alexander announced he’d be selling, team owners had, for the most part, been standing pat on their investments, letting their franchises slowly appreciate over time. When the Clippers sold under duress for a record-breaking $2B, the public got its first glimpse of just how valuable the teams have begun.

As Pelton writes, the fact that the Rockets, a team projected to be the eighth most valuable in the league, sold for over $2B could mean that the average price of an NBA franchise is now close to $1.5B.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Ownership of the Rockets will be transferred to Tilman Fertitta but what does that entail? Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle broke down the next steps in the process, including the $1MM application fee Fertitta will have to pay to cover all the administrative costs associated with the sale of an NBA franchise.
  • The Grizzlies will be a team in transition, Shaun Powell of writes. With Zach Randolph and Vince Carter now members of the Kings, the Grind House era could be coming to a close. Powell wonders if Memphis would look to shop Marc Gasol at the deadline if the team gets off to a rough start.
  • Fear not, world, Tilman Fertitta has said that he’d be happy to have Beyoncé join his team in Houston, Alysha Tsuji of USA Today writes. The singer had previously been said to have had an interest in purchasing the Rockets.
  • Just how well Dennis Smith Jr., widely regarded as a darkhorse candidate to win the Rookie of the Year award, fares in his first NBA season could determine how the Mavs transition into the post- Dirk Nowtizki era, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes.

Mavericks Notes: Noel, Matthews, Smith, Cuban

Restricted free agent Nerlens Noel turned down an offer from the Mavericks in the range of $17.5MM per year, tweets Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. With no further details on that offer, it’s hard to know exactly how appealing it was — it could have been a short-term deal, or not fully guaranteed. Still, it seems like a very fair annual rate for Noel.

The 23-year old big man remains one of the top players left on the market as training camps near. Noel still hopes to land a max contract, even though few teams have the financial resources available to make such an offer.

He recently changed agents, hiring Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, who lists LeBron James and John Wall among his highest-profile clients. Noel has been frustrated at not receiving offers from any other organizations. He still has the option to accept a $4,187,598 qualifying offer from the Mavericks and take his chances as an unrestricted free agent next season. Noel averaged 8.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 22 games with Dallas after a deadline trade brought him from the 76ers.

There’s more today out of Dallas:

  • Halfway through the four-year, $70MM deal he signed with the Mavericks in 2015, Wesley Matthews is adopting some new training techniques to improve his game, writes Earl K. Sneed of Matthews has been doing yoga this summer and trying to improve his conditioning in hopes of raising his shooting percentage in 2017/18. “I want to be the most complete basketball player that I can be, and with the shooting slump that I had there were still ways that I had to be effective on the court,” he said. “You know, energy, leadership and defense, that’s always going to be a part of it. But being able to get other guys shots and get other guys open, I take pride in that as well.” Matthews has shot 39% overall and 36% from 3-point range during his two seasons in Dallas, well below the numbers he put up in Portland. He could be a year away from free agency, as he has a player option on his $18,622,514 salary for 2018/19.
  • Owner Mark Cuban worries that it might be a “curse” or “jinx” that Dennis Smith Jr. is considered an early favorite for Rookie of the Year, but he raved about the No. 9 draft pick in a recent appearance on the Rich Eisen Show. In a segment transcribed by The Dallas Morning News, Cuban says Smith’s ability goes beyond his obvious athleticism. “I mean his ball handling, his intellect for the game, he’s already on Synergy Sports watching great point guards [and] learning from them,” Cuban said. “He’s committed to getting better every day. He’s just got that mindset of a winner.”
  • In the same interview, Cuban says the NBA’s new scheduling policy goes “90% of the way” toward solving the problem of teams resting healthy players, and adds that he would never tell coach Rick Carlisle to keep a player out of action.

NBA Rookies View Dennis Smith Jr. As ROY Favorite

For the last decade,’s John Schuhmann has been surveying several incoming rookies to get their thoughts on their fellow first-year players.  Schuhmann asks the newest NBA players to identify which rookie they expect to have the best career, which was the steal of the 2017 draft, and which is the frontrunner for the 2017/18 Rookie of the Year award, among other questions.

This year, Schuhmann polled 39 rookies, and more than a quarter of those players made Mavericks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. their pick for Rookie of the Year favorite. The No. 9 overall pick received 25.7% of the vote, beating out top picks like Lonzo Ball (20%) and Markelle Fultz (17.1%). That may be good news for the Mavs, though as Schuhmann observes, the rookies he has surveyed haven’t accurately predicted the Rookie of the Year winner since 2007/08, when they made Kevin Durant the overwhelming favorite.

Here are a few more items of interest from Schuhmann’s survey:

  • Smith was the landslide winner (43.6%) as the most athletic rookie. But while his fellow rookies believe the Mavericks point guard will have the best first year, Ball and Celtics forward Jayson Tatum received the most votes (18.4% apiece) for which rookie will have the best overall career.
  • Donovan Mitchell (18.9%) was the top choice for biggest steal of the draft, after the Jazz nabbed him at No. 13. Some of the second-round picks that the rookies viewed as steals included Jordan Bell (Warriors; No. 38) and Dwayne Bacon (Hornets; No. 40).
  • Luke Kennard (Pistons) and Malik Monk (Hornets) were widely considered the top two outside shooters in the draft. Among their fellow rookies, Kennard (48.6%) easily topped Monk (13.5%) as the pick for the No. 1 shooter of the 2017 class.
  • Suns forward Josh Jackson (26.3%) was narrowly voted the best rookie defender, while Ball (71.8%) was the overwhelming pick for best rookie playmaker.

Malik Monk Was Convinced Knicks Would Draft Him

The Knicks were under Phil Jackson‘s reign during this summer’s draft and the team selected Frank Ntilikina with the No. 8 overall pick. Jackson has since been ousted, though the current front office is confident in the team’s first round selection, as Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News relays.

“I talked to our scouts a lot about Frank before the draft. I went over and watched Frank play prior to the draft, met with Frank’s coaches and learned a lot about who he is as a player and who he is as a person,” said Steve Mills, who has been with the organization since 2013, but has been recently promoted to Team President. “So I’m very comfortable with that draft pick. I would have selected Frank at that point in the draft myself. He’s a guy that fits in everything that we’re talking about right now. He’s a smart basketball player. He focuses defensively and his approach to the game, his work ethic, fit exactly in the direction that we want to take this team.”

New York decided to take the Ntilikina over other notable guards. The front office had internal debates about taking Dennis Smith Jr., Donovan Mitchell or Malik Monk over the French point guard, but ultimately passed on each.

Monk met with the team leading up to the draft and believed he would be the selection at No. 8.

“Me, my agent, everybody in my agency, my family – we all thought we were going to NY,” Monks said (via Bondy’s Twitter feed.

On the day of the draft, Chad Ford of predicted Monk or Ntilikina would be the selection for New York. Monk was nabbed by the Hornets with the No. 11 overall pick.

Knicks Notes: Porzingis, Jackson, Smith Jr., Front Office Diversity

The Knicks recently exercised their team option to re-sign Kristaps Porzingis for 2018/19. However, if Phil Jackson were still calling the shots at Madison Square Garden, who’s to say what The Unicorn’s basketball future would look like, Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype writes.

According to Peter Vecsey, who received the first and to-date only quote from Jackson after his departure from the Knicks, Jackson was legitimately interested in trading Porzingis.

Vecsey said:  “People knew, they probably wouldn’t have accepted, but Phil was angling to try and trade Porzingis for the No. 1 pick to Boston and he would have taken [Lonzo] Ball. That’s who he was after. In the end, people might really like that.”

Vecsey adds that when Jackson began embarrassing Porzingis, owner James Dolan knew Jackson was no longer a suitable executive for the team.

Here are some more notes regarding the Knicks:

  • Prior to this year’s NBA draft, Dennis Smith Jr. dined with former team president Jackson and was encouraged to eat an octopus tentacle, relays Stefan Bondy of the NY Daily News. Although Smith reluctantly ate the exotic delicacy, the Knicks opted to draft Frank Ntilikina instead. Smith was selected by the Mavericks with the following pick. Smith was a standout performer at the NBA Las Vegas Summer League and has already inked a three-year endorsement deal with Under Armour.
  • Seventy years ago, the Knicks’ visionary coach Joe Lapchick pushed racial integration on a league that would merge with another to form the NBA three years later. Lapchick did so by fielding an all-black team that he pushed to have admitted to the league. Today, the Knicks are again at the vanguard of diversity, writes Harvey Araton of The New York Times. This time, New York is blazing trails in its front office, boasting the only African-American president-and-general-manager tandem in the NBA and proceeding to hire three more black front office executives in recent weeks.
  • For more news, notes, and rumors on the Knicks, be sure to check out their team page.


Western Notes: Irving, Clippers, Parker, Spurs, Smith Jr., Randolph

Kyrie Irving reportedly would like to play for the Clippers, relays Bryan Kalbrosky of Hoops Hype. While speaking with Alex Kennedy on the HoopsHype Podcast, Peter Vecsey said this about Irving:

“He loves L.A. and he’s been working out there a lot this summer. Do they have the assets they get him? I don’t see how. But they also have Jerry West and he’s been able to figure out before … the Lakers didn’t have the assets to get Shaq and he wheeled and dealed and figured out and they got him … he was able to get Kobe for Divac in the draft.”

Vecsey added that Irving does not have leverage and that a trade does not appear doable despite the disgruntled point guard’s reported preference to play for Doc Rivers in Los Angeles.

Here are some more notes from the Western Conference:

  • Spurs point guard Tony Parker expects to be back on the court in four to five months, reports Tom Orsborn of “It’s OK. It’s getting better and better,” Parker said regarding his recovery from the left quadriceps injury that cost him the last four games of the second round of the playoffs and the entire Western Conference Finals this past postseason. “I’m starting to run like a little bit. I’m walking pretty well. I think it’s still going to be a long process. It’s still going to take like another four or five months, but I am very happy with the progresses. I am advancing in my rehab.”
  • Sean Deveney of SportingNews writes that, despite the Spurs’ fairly quiet offseason thus far, the team could make some bigger moves in 2018. Deveney argues that what the Spurs may have planned down the line could make this offseason, which was marked by a continuation of the status quo, worth it for San Antonio basketball faithful.
  • The Mavericks‘ starting point guard position will be up for grabs in training camp, reports Earl K. Sneed of Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson further explained that Dennis Smith Jr. must put in the work to earn the job: “Those keys are earned. You know, it’s going to be an interesting training camp. I think Dennis is going to play for one of the best coaches in the NBA. That being said, I think internally you can’t help but be excited by the potential, but he wouldn’t want it any other way. Just knowing the character of Dennis and knowing his family and surrounding structure, he’s going to want to earn those minutes. He’s truly a winner in every sense of the word.”
  • Zach Randolph could be banned by the NBA if he is convicted of his felony marijuana charge, writes Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. Randolph’s former teammate O.J. Mayo was previously banned from the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy.

Poll: Best Rookie Point Guard Season

The 2017 NBA Draft was loaded with talented point guards, including first overall pick Markelle Fultz, No. 2 selection Lonzo Ball, and fellow lottery picks De’Aaron Fox, Frank Ntilikina, and Dennis Smith Jr. 

Fultz showed flashes of brilliance in the NBA Summer League amid overall inconsistent play before he ultimately injured his ankle in his Las Vegas debut. The 76ers guard was promptly shut down for the remainder of Summer League. This season, the rookie figures to be a regular fixture in the Philadelphia backcourt.

After dominating his freshman season at UCLA, Ball won Las Vegas Summer League MVP honors, racking up assists (9.3 APG) and steals (2.5 SPG), as well as points and rebounds. Although it is not clear whether Ball will start for the Lakers right out of the gate, he will certainly be the beneficiary of a hearty amount of playing time.

Fox is also expected to see his fair share of action this season, but averaged just 21.3 minutes per game in four Las Vegas Summer League games. Like Fultz and Ball, Fox exhibited tantalizing athleticism. The Kentucky product averaged a solid 11.8 points per contest and 3.0 assists. Fox’s 2.3 SPG were extremely impressive.

The Knicks drafted Ntilikina eighth overall because of his speed and agility. Last season, the point guard averaged just 15.5 minutes per game for Strasbourg in France but displayed tremendous promise and improved noticeably as a shooter. With D. Rose out of town, it appears as if the keys to Madison Square Garden are about to be Frank’s.

In six games in Las Vegas, Smith averaged 17.3 PPG, 4.8 RPG, and 4.2 APG, shooting 45.7% from the floor and electrifying with the occasional powerful dunk. The Mavericks prospect also tallied 2.2 SPG.

This brings us to today’s poll: Which of these point guards will have the best rookie season in 2017/18?

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