Dennis Smith Jr.

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 ESPN.com 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 MySA.com. “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.com. 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?

Southwest Notes: Nowitzki, Olajuwon, Spurs

The give-and-take relationship that Dirk Nowitzki and Mavs owner Mark Cuban have has never been on clearer display than when the 39-year-old took a $20MM pay cut between this year and last, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News writes.

“Mark and I obviously have a close, close relationship,” Nowitzki said. Last year, he really, really took care of me as we all know […] and it was my time to show again that I love being [with the Mavs]. I gave him a little bit of a deal, maybe.”

The big man is optimistic about the Mavs’ young core built around Harrison Barnes, Dennis Smith Jr. and, hopefully, Nerlens Noel, suggesting that he’s hopeful to leave the franchise in as good a position as possible when he retires after this season or next.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Spurs have named Blake Ahearn the new head coach of their G League affiliate, the team announced in a press release on its website. Ahearn, who played briefly in the NBA, will be at the helm of the Austin Spurs in 2017/18.
  • Count Hakeem Olajuwon among those interested in buying a portion of the Rockets. The franchise Hall of Famer has been approached by several groups that want him involved in a potential purchase, Mark Woods reports for ESPN.
  • The Mavs have a young core in place that they’re happy with and aren’t afraid to let it develop organically. “I think that young core is what we want to continue to build on, grow with and hopefully surprise a lot of people,” owner Mark Cuban told Earl Sneed of Dallas’ official website. “I think Dennis [Smith Jr.] is going to be able to come in, play and hopefully have an impact his first year, and we don’t want to take anything away from that.

Southwest Notes: Smith Jr., Anthony, F. Jackson

Count Chauncey Billups among those who think that Mavs rookie Dennis Smith Jr. will be able to make a serious case for Rookie of the Year, Adam Grosbard of the Dallas Morning News writes.

I think he’s the most polished out of all the point guards that were out there this year,” the former All-Star said of the Mavs’ ninth-overall pick. “I think he’s the most polished, pro-ready in my opinion and there’s some really good ones that came into the draft this year.”

Smith Jr. has been perceived as an early leader for the Rookie of the Year after an impressive summer league showing and will join the Mavs as an explosive playmaker cut from the same cloth, Billups believes, as Baron Davis.

I’m happy that he’s going to get to play for Rick Carlisle, who’s a guy that I believe in,” Billups added. The current Mavs head coach, of course, coached Billups and his 2002/03 Pistons to the Eastern Conference Finals.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • Although he isn’t a free agent, Carmelo Anthony holds his fate in his own hands. Moke Hamilton of Basketball Insiders writes about how it’s in his best interests, financially, to end up with the Rockets sooner than later.
  • One of the things that sets Mavs icon Dirk Nowitzki apart is his willingness to work with young players, Harrison Barnes said in an interview on The Fan’s Ben and Skin. “The biggest thing for me when I came to Dallas was how open and willing he was to work with young guys. Work on the court every day, be willing to talk, have access to. Guys of his status, All-Stars or future Hall of Famers, can kind of be distant,” he said.
  • The majority of Frank Jackson‘s contract with the Pelicans is guaranteed, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. Jackson’s first two seasons are guaranteed at the league minimum, as is $506K of his third season.

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Zagorac, Noel, Smith Jr.

Pelicans executive VP of basketball operations Mickey Loomis says the team is “due” for success and Rajon Rondo will provide veteran leadership, as he told New Orleans Times-Picayune columnists Jeff Duncan and Larry Holder during a radio interview. Loomis affirmed that the team was at a crossroads in terms of its development after trading for DeMarcus Cousins last season, retaining free agent point guard Jrue Holiday and reaching an agreement with Rondo. “I think we’re due and it’s time to have some success,” he said in the interview. “I think we’re all expecting that.” Though Rondo has yet to officially signed with New Orleans, Loomis said Rondo’s experience made him a good fit. “We’re talking about a veteran player that has some leadership qualities that’s been on winning teams, that understands how to win in the NBA,” Loomis said.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • Rade Zagorac‘s contract with the Grizzlies is a three-year, $3.9MM deal, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets. The first two years and $2.3MM is guaranteed, he adds. Zagorac, the 35th overall selection in the 2016 draft, played overseas last season. The swingman was the leading scorer for KK Mega Leks in Serbia in 2016/17.
  • The Mavs will continue to play hardball with restricted free agent Nerlens Noel now that his other options have fallen by the wayside, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News opines. Noel is one of the few high-level free agents who hasn’t already signed a contract this month. Sefko doubts that Noel will take the qualifying offer of $4,187,598 and become an unrestricted free agent next summer, speculating that the two parties will eventually come to an agreement.
  • Mavs first-rounder Dennis Smith Jr.has made a strong impression on some scouts with his summer-league performances, according to Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. The point guard averaged 16.2 PPG, 5.2 RPG and 3.8 APG in his first five summer-league outings.  “(Smith Jr.) has a solid feel as a young point guard,” one scout told Wasserman. Wasserman quotes eight scouts, who break down the pros and cons of Smith Jr.’s game.

Mavs Sign Dennis Smith Jr. To Rookie Contract

The Mavericks have signed this year’s lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. to his first NBA contract, the team announced today in a press release. Smith is one of several first-round picks who has officially signed with his new club this week.

Smith, 19, was the fifth point guard selected in the 2017 draft, and the ninth player off the board overall. As the No. 9 pick, he’ll be in line for a $3.218MM salary in his rookie season, and his four-year rookie contract will be worth more than $17MM overall, assuming his third- and fourth-year options are exercised. His year-by-year salaries are outlined in our chart of this year’s rookie scale.

Smith, who played his first and only season of college ball at North Carolina State, averaged an impressive 18.1 PPG and 6.2 APG for the Wolfpack, shooting 50.9% from the field and chipping in 1.9 SPG.

Despite being linked to several free agent point guards this offseason, the Mavericks have stayed out of the fray so far this week. The team seems likely to pick up a veteran at some point, but the fact that the Mavs didn’t pursue any top-tier options suggests that they’re confident in Smith’s ability to take on a substantial role sooner rather than later.

Southwest Notes: Morey, Rockets, Noel, Ferrell

Rockets GM Daryl Morey, who recently signed a four-year extension, continues to work on large-scale moves after a quiet draft, writes Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. On draft night, the Rockets had just one second-round pick and used it on Isaiah Hartenstein, who will remain overseas next season, Feigen tweets. The Rockets also traded their second-round pick, Dillon Brooks, to the Grizzlies for a second-round pick next season. Morey discussed his approach:

“We were very focused on two things, to get someone who can help us now and in the future. The second, we did a lot of potential discussions with teams that advanced a little bit today. Obviously, we’re focused on the team now, focused on chasing Golden State. Anything we can push in the future to help us upgrade the team, potentially through trade, we’re ready to do.”

The Rockets were discussing Paul George with the Pacers on Thursday and continue to do so, but nothing was considered close on draft day, per Feigen. The team was simultaneously having conversations directed at making cap room available if they needed it for an expensive free agent addition. Morey stated that the team was considering some deals to move into the first round of the draft, but the Rockets prioritized saving cap space to pursue big trades.

What else is going on in the Southwest division?:

Draft Night Rumors: Holiday, Smith Jr., Butler, Cavs

9:14pm: In response to Amico’s note below, Channing Frye has posted an Instagram message dismissing the idea that he’s planning to retire.

Meanwhile, Mavs president Donnie Nelson also addresses an item below, telling reporters that he thinks the Dennis Smith Jr. pick means the Mavs likely won’t target a point guard in free agency (Twitter link via Damon R. Marx of The Dallas Morning News).

8:28pm: The Mavericks may not be ready to hand their offense over to No. 9 pick Dennis Smith Jr. The team still plans to make a run at Pelicans‘ point guard Jrue Holiday once free agency begins, tweets Jonathan Givony of Draft Express. A former All-Star in Philadelphia, Holiday will be seeking a significant raise after making less than $11.3MM this season. The 27-year-old averaged 15.4 points and 7.3 assists in 67 games.

There’s more news from an eventful draft night:

  • Dallas coach Rick Carlisle offered a different perspective, posts Tim MacMahon on ESPN Now. Before being asked, Carlisle told reporters that he sees Smith as an immediate starter, noting his blend of intelligence, maturity and athleticism. “We believe he’s going to be a tremendous player for us and right away,” he said.
  • Carlisle added that the Mavs definitely preferred Smith over French point guard Frank Ntilikina, who was taken by the Knicks at No. 8. The coach said there was “uproarious” applause in the Dallas draft room when New York’s pick was announced (Twitter link).
  • In negotiations for Jimmy Butler, the Celtics refused to part with their No. 3 pick this year or the Nets‘ pick for 2018, according to K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Butler was shipped to Minnesota in a deal involving the No. 7 pick, and the Celtics may send Jayson Tatum, whom they drafted at No. 3, to Indiana in a trade for Paul George.
  • Cavaliers veterans Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson may retire this offseason, relays Sam Amico of AmicoHoops (Twitter link). If they do, it will reduce the salary commitment in Cleveland and open up two roster spots, giving the new GM some flexibility. Frye, 34, made more than $7.4MM this season, while Jefferson, who turned 37 yesterday, collected a little more than $2.6MM.
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