Dennis Smith Jr.

Mavs Notes: State Of The Team, Curry, Smith Jr.

Through 27 games, the Mavericks have a 7-20 record, which is identical to the team’s mark through its first 27 games a year ago. Last season’s Mavs played nearly .500 ball the rest of the way, finishing 33-49, but owner Mark Cuban believes this year’s squad is better positioned going forward, as Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News details.

“[We’re] not where we want to be, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s not a train,” Cuban said on Sunday. “We’re playing better. It’s sort of like where the T-Wolves (Sunday’s opponent) were last year. We’re competitive. We’re getting leads against good teams. We just haven’t figured out how to close out games. We’ve come a long way.”

The Mavs have dealt with some injury issues so far this season, and Cuban pointed to the club’s tough schedule as another reason why Dallas has won just seven games. Despite the underwhelming on-court results, Cuban is staying positive: “As our young guys get older, they’ll learn. It’s not like anybody’s regressing.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • As Sefko writes, Cuban’s comments on the state of the Mavs included a nod to the fans that want to see the team continue losing in order to get a top pick in the 2018 draft. “For fans that want to see us get better, the opportunity is going to be there,” Cuban said. “For fans that want Team Tank to get a draft pick, the league is a lot more balanced this year in both conferences.”
  • Head coach Rick Carlisle said last month that there wouldn’t be an update on Seth Curry‘s health until December 11. So what’s today’s update? Curry will remain sidelined for at least another week, per Carlisle (Twitter link via Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com).
  • Carlisle also addressed Dennis Smith Jr.‘s left hip strain, suggesting that getting the rookie point guard back to 100% is the Mavs’ “No. 1 priority (Twitter links via Sneed). Smith will miss Tuesday’s game against San Antonio and there’s currently no timetable for his return.

Southwest Notes: Smith Jr., Green, Bickerstaff

The Mavericks were without rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. tonight and will likely be without him through the weekend, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes.

According to Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle, the 20-year-old injured his hip after getting tangle up with a baseline camera man. While the injury doesn’t appear to be serious, Dallas has been particularly cautious with Smith Jr.’s health this season.

Through 23 games with the Mavericks this season, Smith Jr. has averaged 14.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game. He missed two contests already this season back in October.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Grizzlies don’t have a permanent head coach yet but just hired former NBA player Greg Buckner to serve as an assistant, Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal writes. Buckner worked alongside interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff in Houston and played for the Grizz in 2008/09.
  • The Grizzlies don’t need JaMychal Green to be a star but they do need him to establish himself as a plus defender, Chris Herrington of The Commercial Appeal writes. Green looked particularly impressive on that side of the ball in the team’s streak-busting win over the Timberwolves this week.
  • In the same article for The Commercial Appeal, Chris Herrington writes that the Grizzlies have been slower on offense than before J.B. Bickerstaff took over as head coach. Another difference than under David Fizdale‘s watch is that the Grizz are shooting fewer threes but at a higher clip.

Mavs Notes: Smith, Antetokounmpo, Centers, Curry

Although they enjoyed a 32-point win over the Bucks on Saturday, the Mavericks have struggled to find their rhythm early on this season, going 3-14 through their first 17 games and finding themselves in last place in the Western Conference.

Despite the rough start, however, head coach Rick Carlisle is not going to let his star rookie Dennis Smith Jr. pick up any losing habits. According to Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News, Carlisle and Smith spend a lot of time together, one-on-one, going over film, both before and after games.

“He’s an important part of our team,” Carlisle said. “It’s gotten to the point where our winning is largely dependent on him playing well, which is a great compliment to him and what he’s been able to establish.”

There’s more from Dallas:

  • Saturday was a bittersweet night for the Mavericks. While they beat the Bucks handily, they were also reminded of what they missed out on after passing on Giannis Antetokounmpo in the first round of the 2013 NBA Draft. As Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News highlights, it was owner Mark Cuban who ultimately made the decision not to select Antetokounmpo.
  • According to Carlisle, Seth Curry is not expected to be back on the court this week, tweets Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. There is no timetable for Curry’s return.
  • Despite having “a forklift full of centers,” the Mavericks are aware that the position is somewhat of a roulette wheel at the moment, writes Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News“It’s a bit of a by-committee position,” Carlisle said. “The guys got to roll with it and understand the things they do may only fit in certain stretches.”

Atlantic Rumors: Johnson, LeBron, Stauskas, Raptors

Sixers veteran big man Amir Johnson isn’t pouting about sitting out the team’s loss to the Warriors on Saturday, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Johnson, who signed a one-year, $11MM contract in the offseason, was actually appreciative that coach Brett Brown forewarned him that he would not play for the first time this season.  “I can’t do anything but respect having a coach come up to you and letting you know when you are going to get ready,” Johnson told Pompey. “With me being a vet, I always stay ready.” Johnson and Richaun Holmes are sharing time as center Joel Embiid‘s backups. Johnson isn’t concerned how his lack of playing time could impact him in the free agent market next summer, Pompey adds.

In other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • Cavaliers forward LeBron James wasn’t criticizing rookie guard Frank Ntilikina but rather taking a potshot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson with his comments regarding Mavs rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr., according to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin. James said over the weekend that Smith “should be a Knick,” referring to Smith going one pick after the Knicks selected Ntilikina. James clarified his remarks on Monday, emphasizing he didn’t mean to disparage Ntilikina’s ability. Ntilikina still apparently took offense to James’ comments, giving the perennial All-Star a shove during their teams’ game on Monday night, the Associated Press’ Brian Mahoney tweets.
  • The Sixers will be without backup guard Nik Stauskas for at least a week. He’s out with a sprained right ankle, Pompey tweets, and will be reevaluated in 7-10 days. That leave the Sixers a little thin in the backcourt. Jerryd Bayless is out indefinitely with a wrist injury.
  • The Raptors’ offensive issues have led to poor transition defense, as Doug Smith of the Toronto Star notes. The Raptors have made just 33.5% of their 3-point attempts while hoisting up an average of 31.1 per game. That leads to long rebounds and poor floor balance, a major reason why the Raptors rank 27th by allowing an average of 13.4 fast-break points per game, Smith adds.

Knicks Notes: LeBron, Smith Jr., Cauley-Stein, Lee

LeBron James offered an assessment of the Knicks’ draft strategy after Saturday’s game in Dallas, relays Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. impressed James with 21 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks. The Cavaliers star told reporters after the game that Smith “should be a Knick,” indicating that New York should have taken him instead of Frank Ntilikina, who was selected one pick earlier.

“He’s an unbelievable talent [with] athleticism,” said James. “He’s very poised to be his age, can shoot the ball, penetrate. He’s only going to get better and better with the opportunity that he’s getting here. Dallas got a good one. I’ve been knowing that. I’ve been with him for so long now. I’ve been knowing his talent level.”

James is sure to be asked to expand on those comments when the Cavaliers visit Madison Square Garden Monday. MacMahon suggests the statements were part of a long-running feud with former Knicks president Phil Jackson, who angered James last year by using the word “posse” to describe his associates. The Knicks came to Ntilikina’s defense, with Enes Kanter tweeting, “Nope!! We love what we got…Thanks!!!”

There’s more this morning out of New York:

  • The Knicks received a better draft grade from Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, who told Howie Kussoy of The New York Post that the organization made the right decision in 2015 when it passed on him to select Kristaps Porzingis. Cauley-Stein was labeled as the best defensive big man in the draft and had a pre-draft workout for the Knicks. The team opted for Porzingis at No. 4, and Cauley-Stein went to Sacramento two picks later. “I thought I had a pretty good chance of coming here, but they ended up picking the right guy,” Cauley-Stein said. “This league’s all about situations. I went to a situation where I’m playing behind the best center in the league [DeMarcus Cousins], or I could’ve gone to somewhere where they don’t have a guy, and now you’re the guy, and you’re getting all the touches. That helps a lot.”
  • Coach Jeff Hornacek has wanted Courtney Lee to shoot more often since he signed with the team in the summer of 2016, Kussoy writes in a separate story. The 10-year veteran posted a 20-point performance Saturday night and is making a case to be the team’s second option. “He shot the shots he was supposed to,” Hornacek said. “He didn’t need to be wide open. He’s a great shooter. He can shoot it with guys in his face. That helps spread the court.”
  • Hornacek is an overlooked factor in the Knicks’ 7-5 start, according to Ian Begley of ESPN. He has the team sharing the ball, improving from 23rd to seventh in assist ratio, and working together on defense. “I think he’s done a great job,” said Jarrett Jack, who became a starter after New York lost its first three games. “I know for me, as someone who always has to be a kind of extension of the coach, me and him have been able to kind to develop a relationship where I can kind of read what he wants on the court and I can kind of relay it to the guys.” 

Southwest Notes: Rondo, Curry, Pelicans

Offseason addition Rajon Rondo has stepped as one of the vocal leaders in the Pelicans locker room despite the fact that he hasn’t suited up for a single game this season, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes.

The 31-year-old playmaker will slot into a frontcourt-heavy Pelicans lineup that could benefit from reinforcements on the perimeter. That doesn’t mean the veteran is going to rush back from the core muscle injury that has sidelined him since undergoing surgery in mid-October.

I wake up and I feel pretty good everyday. We take for granted that we can get out of bed on the regular, for the couple weeks I was down, I couldn’t. I’m just happy I can get out of bed without having assistance or not having to roll over to my side and get up,” the Pelicans guard said.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry mentioned November 17 as a possible return date but Rondo will be particularly cautious about making his debut. “I want to play the rest of the [season]. I don’t want to come back and play two games, then I’m sitting out for another two weeks,” he said.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Don’t expect the Mavs to instantly turn their season around once Seth Curry makes his 2017/18 debut but the sharp-shooting guard can help create space with his .432 career three-point shooting abilities, Kevin Sherrington of The Dallas Morning News writes in a question-and-answer feature with readers.
  • Shaky perimeter play has limited the Pelicans this season, William Guillory of The Times-Picayune writes, and that was on display yet again this week. The team has struggled in 2017/18 in part because they rely too heavily on their star-studded frontcourt for offense.
  • Count Mavs owner Mark Cuban among those excited about Dennis Smith Jr. Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News writes that Cuban thinks the rookie guard needs to work on his shot but has the strength and attitude to thrive in the NBA.

Texas Notes: Jackson, Smith Jr., Clavell, Leonard

Rockets guard Demetrius Jackson can expect a lot of trips to and from Rio Grande Valley over the next few weeks, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Jackson, who is serving as the team’s backup point guard while Chris Paul is sidelined with soreness in his left knee, signed a two-way contract over the summer and is limited to 45 days in the NBA. Every day in Houston will count against that total once G League camps open tomorrow, so Jackson will be making repeated journeys to the Rockets’ affiliate.

Jackson played 17 minutes in Saturday’s win over the Mavericks, delivering four points, five rebounds and two assists. The Rockets may decide to convert his deal into a full NBA contract if Paul’s absence is prolonged and the team can’t find another point guard. “Definitely, a different confidence level after going back, reviewing the film, trying to grow from the positive and the negative,” Jackson said. “I definitely got some good looks. Just have to step up and knock those down.”

There’s more NBA news from the Lone Star State:

  • The left knee effusion suffered by Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. may not be as bad as it sounds, cautions Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. There is concern in Dallas because an effusion, which means swelling due to fluid building up in a joint, is what sidelined Dirk Nowitzki for two months in 2013. However, Sefko notes that Nowitzki was much older, and Smith played a lot in preseason without any knee issues.
  • The Mavericks are getting Gian Clavell, who also has a two-way contract, some NBA experience before G League camps begin, Sefko adds in the same piece. The rookie out of Puerto Rico got into games Friday and Saturday as the third-string point guard. Johnathan Motley, the team’s other two-way player, hasn’t appeared in a game yet.
  • There are indications that Spurs star Kawhi Leonard might return to action sooner than expected, according to Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Leonard, who has been sidelined since training camp with quadriceps tendinopathy, traveled with the team to Chicago Saturday. “He’s progressing,” said coach Gregg Popovich. “I’ll just leave it at that.”

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

NBA.com has completed its annual survey of NBA general managers, with John Schuhmann of NBA.com 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:

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