Dennis Smith Jr.

Scotto’s Latest: Beasley, Hield, Nuggets, Martin, Pelicans, Mavs, Cavs

Coming off a season in which he made a career-high 41.3% of his three-point attempts, free agent swingman Malik Beasley was considered the Mavericks‘ Plan B for outside shooting help if they were unable to land Klay Thompson, reports Michael Scotto of HoopsHype.

With Dallas no longer in the mix for Beasley, the 27-year-old sharpshooter is receiving interest from the Pelicans, who like the idea of having him stretching the floor alongside Zion Williamson, league sources tell Scotto.

Meanwhile, the Pistons “flirted” with potentially offering Buddy Hield a one-year contract and have considered doing the same for Beasley, Scotto writes, but for now Detroit wants to keep its salary cap space open for trade purposes, since the team is well positioned to take on an unwanted contract or two and receive draft assets for its trouble.

Here’s more from Scotto:

  • The Nuggets and Heat were among the teams to express interest in Hield before he agreed to join the Warriors, per Scotto. However, neither team could realistically match the $8.7MM starting salary Hield got from Golden State. Denver is shopping in free agency with its $5.2MM taxpayer mid-level exception in the hopes of adding a player who can help fill the Kentavious Caldwell-Pope-sized hole in the team’s rotation, Scotto notes.
  • When he declined his $7.1MM player option with Miami, Caleb Martin was hoping for a deal worth at least the full mid-level exception ($12.9MM) and possibly more than that, sources tell HoopsHype, but nothing has materialized so far. The Sixers are among the teams with interest in Martin, but his asking price would have to drop for that to be realistic, according to Scotto.
  • While the Pelicans continue to peruse the trade market for centers – with Wendell Carter of the Magic among the targets on their radar – veteran big man Daniel Theis has been linked to New Orleans as a possible cheaper option in free agency, Scotto writes.
  • The Mavericks, in the market for one more guard, have considered a possible reunion with Spencer Dinwiddie or Dennis Smith Jr., according to Scotto, who hears that Malachi Flynn is another playing Dallas is considering if Dinwiddie and Smith end up elsewhere.
  • Johnnie Bryant (Knicks), Jared Dudley (Mavericks), and Trevor Hendry (Nets) are among the coaches the Cavaliers are eyeing as possible assistants for Kenny Atkinson‘s staff, Scotto reports. Bryant was close with Donovan Mitchell from their days in Utah together, while Dudley and Hendry were with Atkinson in Brooklyn (Dudley as a player, Hendry as a staffer).

Free Agency Rumors: Theis, Magic, Heat, Raptors, Rockets

Veteran center Daniel Theis has received interest in free agency from several suitors, including the Grizzlies, Pelicans, and Bucks, reports Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Theis won the 2023 FIBA World Cup with Germany last year, then joined the Clippers in the fall after negotiating a buyout with the Pacers. He served as the backup center in Los Angeles while Mason Plumlee missed time due to an injury and averaged 6.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks in 17.1 minutes per game across 59 outings.

A second-apron team, Milwaukee is limited to offering minimum-salary contracts to outside free agents, while Memphis and New Orleans have financial constraints of their own to consider, so Theis is unlikely to secure a big payday from any of those suitors. Still, they could certainly offer him a path to playing time.

The Grizzlies traded away Steven Adams and Xavier Tillman last season, while New Orleans lost Jonas Valanciunas and Larry Nance Jr. this summer. Milwaukee has Brook Lopez manning the middle, but his name came up in trade rumors last month.

Here are a few more free agency notes from around the NBA:

  • Although the Magic still have a chunk of cap room left over, they don’t appear to be aggressively pursuing outside free agents using that room. Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel (subscription required) hears that there continues to be mutual interest in new deals for free agents Moritz Wagner and Joe Ingles — if both players return, Orlando would have 15 players on standard contracts. A report on Monday suggested the team is also exploring using some cap room to renegotiate and extend Jonathan Isaac‘s contract.
  • Caleb Martin doesn’t have a deal in place with a new team yet, but Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link) still views him as “all but gone” from the Heat. Re-signing Haywood Highsmith remains a possibility for Miami, per Winderman, who says the team may also sign another veteran free agent for the minimum. Winderman names Dennis Smith Jr. as a possible Heat target.
  • Free agent wing Gary Trent Jr. appears likely to leave the Raptors, according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic. As Koreen details, Toronto’s agreement with Garrett Temple means there are already 15 players projected to be on guaranteed contracts if second-round picks Jonathan Mogbo and Jamal Shead are signed using the second-round exception, as expected. In other words, the team’s free agent business might be just about done.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic hears that Trent had some interest in reuniting with former teammate Fred VanVleet in Houston, but the Rockets are another team who likely won’t do much more free agent shopping. Following the additions of Reed Sheppard and AJ Griffin, along with a new deal with Aaron Holiday, Houston projects to have 15 players under contract. While the Rockets would certainly still be interested in acquiring a young star, the two players they’ve been monitoring most closely, per Iko – Donovan Mitchell and Devin Booker – aren’t available, and the asking price for Jazz forward Lauri Markkanen was considered too high.

Nets Notes: Claxton, Budenholzer, Borrego, DSJ, Marks

Appearing on the HoopsHype podcast with Michael Scotto, Brian Lewis of The New York Post said he believes there’s better than a 50/50 chance that Nic Claxton will remain with the Nets, suggesting the team has been preparing for having to give the unrestricted free agent center a significant raise.

“I’d go as far as saying they’ve been fretting over it because they’ve had to carve out the money for this,” Lewis said. “They want him back. … I think they’re reasonably confident that they can, as of today, come to some sort of an agreement.”

As for the Nets’ broader plans going forward, Lewis thinks the team will likely wait until 2025 – when Ben Simmons‘ maximum-salary contract comes off the books – to go “big-game hunting,” though that prediction came with a caveat.

“There are a few players who could accelerate that process,” Lewis said. Donovan Mitchell is one of those few. … If another superstar becomes disgruntled – like Giannis (Antetokounmpo), if he decides he’s given a lot of great years to Milwaukee and wants to leave – there are a few players who’d make the Nets pivot off of waiting until 2025. The baseline right now is the summer of 2025.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Discussing the search that led to Brooklyn identifying Jordi Fernandez as its next head coach, Lewis said he has heard that Mike Budenholzer‘s contract demands were “rather high” in terms of both years and dollars, while Scotto says James Borrego was another candidate who received legitimate consideration from the Nets alongside their three reported finalists.
  • Dennis Smith Jr. hopes to secure a multiyear contract in free agency this summer, according to Scotto. Asked if he sees himself returning to the Nets, Smith didn’t rule it out. “I don’t know. I wouldn’t mind it,” he said. “I’ve got a great relationship with these guys, and the medical and training staff is one of the best I’ve ever seen in the league – and I’ve got a real perspective on that because I’ve been around. I would welcome that.” For what it’s worth, Lewis believes Smith is more likely to land elsewhere than to remain in Brooklyn, particularly if he’s seeking multiple years.
  • NetsDaily passes along some of the highlights from a Sean Marks Q-and-A session with fans at the HSS Training Center this week. The Nets’ president of basketball operations discussed the team’s roster-building approach in fairly general terms and left the door open to the possibility that the club could trade into this year’s draft.

Nets Notes: Schroder, Bates-Diop, Smith Jr., Future

Dennis Schröder had a splashy Nets debut on Saturday. The veteran point guard racked up 15 points and 12 assists in a 20-point win over San Antonio after he was acquired in a trade with the Raptors.

“He was able to show his ability to be a point guard on the floor,” coach Jacque Vaughn said, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “Whether that was getting plays from me on the fly, organizing and getting our group into good sets, and just the overall feel of understanding the flow of the game, what’s needed. You saw his ability to have a toughness about him, whether that was guarding [Victor Wembanyama] or guarding other perimeter guys.”

We have more on the Nets:

  • Forward Keita Bates-Diop saw four minutes of action on his Nets debut on Saturday, Lewis notes in a separate story. He was acquired from the Suns in the Royce O’Neale trade. “Keita brings high IQ, intellect guy that’s still getting better. We’ll be able to see how he can impact on both ends of the floor,” Vaughn said. “We got a chance to play against him the first time in Phoenix, so knowing he’s been able to fit into systems and be able to space the floor but also be a traditional big, just because he does have a high IQ.”
  • Dennis Smith Jr. got a scare on deadline day when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweeted he would be going to Toronto in a trade. That tweet was quickly corrected but Smith’s phone blew up with messages afterward, James Herbert of CBS Sports writes. Smith didn’t want to be on the move. “I ain’t even get no pregame nap that day. You know what I’m saying? I ain’t even take no nap. I was sick,” Smith said. “I went outside, took a little walk, just tried to decompress real quick. But it was crazy. It was crazy.” Nets assistant GM Andy Birdsong called Smith to assure him he was staying put.
  • In the aftermath of the Nets’ moves, Lewis took a deep dive on what the future approach might be. They have seven tradable first-round picks to find another high-impact player to pair up with Mikal Bridges and should be in position to re-sign Nic Claxton while also having the mid-level exception and the bi-annual exception at their disposal this offseason.

Nets Notes: Simmons, Dinwiddie, Thomas, DSJ

Ben Simmons hasn’t played since November 6, but the Nets remain optimistic he’ll be able to return at some point this season, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Simmons accompanied the team on its West Coast trip that wrapped up Sunday, and coach Jacque Vaughn said there were benefits to having him involved.

“I think just being able to be around at shootaround, being able to be in the film [review Saturday]. All those things matter as he starts to transition his way to being back on the floor, so that gap isn’t so huge for him,” Vaughn said. “Whether it’s different plays that we’re running from last time that he was in, whether it’s different schemes that we were running, if you aren’t around that it can be a lot when he does return. So overall just being able to be around the group and absorb some of that terminology and knowledge is best for us.”

Simmons has been limited to six games because of a back impingement, but the Nets are hoping it’s not another lost season for the former No. 1 overall pick, who has only been healthy for 48 total games since he was acquired nearly two years ago. Simmons’ agent said recently that he’s in the home stretch of his recovery, but Vaughn refused to speculate on when he might be available.

“I’m not gonna give you a step-by-step,” he said. “He’ll move on to that next step, which will be when we get home he’ll get examined again after this long five-hour flight and see how he responds to another week of basketball.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • Trade speculation continues to surround Spencer Dinwiddie, who has broken out of his slump as the deadline nears, Lewis adds. The veteran guard posted 16 points and seven assists on Sunday and is averaging 18 points and six assists over the last three games. Lewis notes that Dinwiddie is believed to be willing to sign an extension with Brooklyn, but his $18.9MM expiring contract is useful if the team gets an opportunity to upgrade its roster.
  • Cam Thomas continues to be a dangerous weapon coming off the bench, but he admits that it’s easier to establish consistency on offense as a starter, Lewis notes in a separate story. Vaughn recently switched his starting lineup, opting for more size while moving Thomas to a sixth-man role. “Maybe it’ll change soon. I get back in the lineup, then you can see more consistency from me in the scoring part,” Thomas said. “But I’ve just got to do my job, man. Whatever he wants me to do. He wants me to come out of the bench, I’ve got to do that. If he wants me back starting, I’m more than open to do it. But it’s kind of tough, but I’ve just got to do my job.”
  • In a subscriber-only article, C.J. Holmes of The New York Daily News looks at how Dennis Smith Jr. has evolved into a team leader since signing with Brooklyn last summer.

New York Notes: Thomas, Dinwiddie, DSJ, Walker, Brunson, McBride

Following his eighth game since being moved from the Nets‘ starting lineup to the bench, Cam Thomas was asked after Monday’s loss to Miami whether he has gained a feel for the rotation patterns and whether he’s gained a “comfortability” with them. Thomas quickly replied with a blunt “no,” then paused for a few seconds before continuing (Twitter video link via Erik Slater of Clutch Points).

“I mean, it could change,” Thomas said. “I’m just doing my job. I’m just doing what I need to do when I get out there to produce. No, I don’t really have no comfortability coming off the bench or starting. Whatever (head coach Jacque Vaughn) wants me to do, that’s what I’m gonna do.”

Thomas subsequently clarified that he meant he doesn’t feel any complacency, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Thomas has had a few big nights since moving back to the bench, including scoring 26 points last Thursday and 23 on Monday. But he has also had 0-for-11 and 0-for-7 performances during that eight-game stretch and is shooting just .339/.263/.700 since being removed from the starting five. Brooklyn has lost seven of those eight contests.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two New York teams:

  • Veteran Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie continues to start, but played a limited role for a second straight game on Monday, logging just 20 minutes after playing only 16 on Thursday in Cleveland. As Lewis of The New York Post notes, Dennis Smith Jr. has been one beneficiary of Vaughn’s rotation tweaks — Smith played 32 minutes on Monday. “I’ve always talked about this being performance-based,” Vaughn said. “I thought Dennis had a good attack for us defensively. We’re just in a position right now where you have to perform, and that’s across the board. So that’s a challenge to the entire group from the beginning of the game to the end to be locked-in and to give everything you have on both ends of the floor.”
  • After Lonnie Walker scored 20 points in 25 minutes in last Thursday’s loss to the Cavs, Jared Schwartz of The New York Post wondered if the Nets might need to make more room for the veteran wing in the rotation. However, Walker has gone scoreless on 0-of-8 shooting in 21 total minutes in his other three appearances since returning from a hamstring injury.
  • Knicks point guard Jalen Brunson missed a second consecutive game on Monday due to a calf contusion, but his return doesn’t appear far off. Head coach Tom Thibodeau suggested that the issue is more about “pain tolerance” than concern about the risk of re-injury, writes Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. “It’s day-to-day,” Thibodeau said. “It’s a little better today. When he’s ready, he’s ready.”
  • With Brunson unavailable, Miles McBride got another start at point guard and set a new career high in points for the second time in three days, putting up 20 in a loss to Orlando. However, he blamed himself for the loss, citing his game management in a fourth quarter in which the Knicks scored just 16 points, per Bridget Reilly of The New York Post. “I’d say it’s my fault as a point guard. I needed to get everybody where they needed to be and manage the game a little bit better at the end,” McBride said. “… I gotta make sure I get everybody where they need to be and take control.”

Atlantic Notes: Knicks Frontcourt, Skapintsev, Embiid, Harris, Smith

As the Knicks grapple with injuries to Mitchell Robinson and Jericho Sims, they’re beginning to look for options to add to their frontcourt depth — which currently consists of Isaiah Hartenstein and Taj Gibson — according to SNY’s Ian Begley (Twitter link). One such option, per Begley, is Dmytro Skapintsev, who is currently playing for New York’s G League affiliate, the Westchester Knicks.

Skapintsev, 25, went undrafted in the 2020 NBA Draft after spending his young professional career in Ukraine. He began playing for the Knicks’ G League affiliate in 2022 and has played there since. Skapintsev played in the 2023 NBA Summer League for the Knicks, then signed an Exhibit 10 contract with New York over the summer before being waived and re-joining Westchester.

In 12 Showcase Cup games with Westchester, Skapintsev averages 5.9 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 18.9 minutes per game.

The Knicks don’t currently have a standard contract opening, but a feasible way to have Skapintsev join the rotation could be by replacing one of their two-way contract players with him until Sims, who is expected to be out one-to-two weeks, comes back.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers superstar center Joel Embiid is on a tear over the past month, averaging 41.4 points and 12.9 rebounds through eight games in December. Embiid scored 51 points against the Timberwolves — the top defensive team in the league — in a 14-point Sixers victory on Wednesday. “He’s unstoppable, man,” guard Anthony Edwards said per Star Tribune’s Chris Hine. “I don’t see how they lose a game, honestly. I don’t see how they lose.
  • After a strong start to the season, Sixers forward Tobias Harris has regressed on the offensive side of the ball, writes The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. Harris finished with nine points in Wednesday’s win over the Wolves and he’s averaging 11.3 points in his past 11 games. Pompey opines that while Philadelphia’s two-man game of Embiid and Tyrese Maxey is working well now, they need Harris to step up in order to find long-term success.
  • Nets guard Dennis Smith Jr. was upgraded to probable for Brooklyn’s Friday game against the Nuggets, tweets the New York Post’s Brian Lewis. Smith hasn’t played since Dec. 6 while dealing with a back injury. On the year, he’s been limited to 13 games and is averaging 6.7 points and 3.5 assists in those outings.

Nets Announce Injury Updates On Simmons, Walker, Smith

While Nets guard Ben Simmons “has displayed consistent strength improvement” with the nerve impingement in his lower left back over the past couple weeks and has ramped up his individual on-court work, he’s still out at least two more weeks, the team announced in a press release (Twitter link via Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog.com).

Simmons has been sidelined since November 6 due to the back injury. He has been dealing with similar issues for the past three years, and back pain played a role in limiting him to 42 games last season. The 27-year-old is up to 20 missed games thus far in 2023/24, with several more to follow — the Nets play nine times over the next couple weeks, including three back-to-backs.

Brooklyn also provided updates on guards Lonnie Walker (hamstring strain) and Dennis Smith Jr. (upper back strain). Walker, who has been out for the past eight games, has gradually increased his activity and is expected to play 5-on-5 soon, per the release — the team hopes he’ll return to the lineup next week.

Smith, who has missed the past six games, is the closest to returning. He has been cleared for full basketball activities, and while he’s out tonight against New York, he’s listed as questionable for Friday’s contest vs. Denver.

The Nets are currently 13-13, the No. 9 seed in the Eastern Conference.

Nets Notes: Thomas, Simmons, Smith, Walker

Since returning from an ankle sprain that caused him to miss nine games, third-year Nets guard Cam Thomas had been in a shooting slump, converting just 37.9% of his field goal attempts in the seven games leading into Saturday’s contest at Golden State.

While Brooklyn wound up losing to the Warriors in a nail-biter, Thomas was able to snap of out the slump, pouring in 41 points on 15-24 shooting (62.5%), writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Yeah, just the way I was … just my feeling out there, the way I started the game off. I felt good coming in, feeling better, getting there by the day,” Thomas said. “In transition when I did a little floater, that’s when I really felt like I was good. I felt good. So my rhythm is coming back, getting there where I need to be. So you know, I just wanna keep it up and keep going.”

As a former first-round pick who had his fourth-year option exercised, Thomas will be eligible for a rookie scale extension in the offseason. He’s averaging a career-high 23.9 points per game through 16 games in 2023/24.

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Saturday was the two-week mark from when the Nets said there would be an update Ben Simmons, who has been sidelined since November 6 with a nerve impingement in his lower back. However, as Lewis tweets, head coach Jacque Vaughn said he had no clarity on Simmons’ status, and he wouldn’t know more until they return to Brooklyn. The Nets conclude their five-game West Coast trip on Monday in Utah, with their next home game coming on Wednesday against the Knicks.
  • Backup guard Dennis Smith Jr. will miss his sixth straight game on Monday, Lewis adds (via Twitter). A free agent addition over the summer, Smith has been battling an upper back sprain.
  • The Nets have gone 1-3 thus far on their road trip, and they’ve been missing the athleticism and “spark” of Lonnie Walker, Smith, and Simmons, according to Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. Like Smith, Walker was a minimum-salary free agent addition. He will miss his eighth consecutive game on Monday due to a groin strain.

New York Notes: LaVine, DeRozan, Bogdanovic, Dinwiddie, DSJ

The Knicks are searching for ways to upgrade their roster, but they haven’t engaged in serious trade talks with the Bulls about Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan or any other players, sources tell Ian Begley of SNY.tv. New York has been floated as a potential suitor for LaVine and reportedly explored a possible deal with Chicago prior to last season’s deadline. The Bulls are hoping to find a taker for LaVine, but his latest injury setback should cool any interest around the league, at least for a while.

Bojan Bogdanovic has also been a target for the Knicks in the past, but Begley’s sources say Detroit isn’t looking to move him right now. Bogdanovic recently returned from a calf strain, and the Pistons hope he can help snap an 18-game losing streak and get them heading in the right direction before considering any deals.

There’s more from New York City:

  • Recent frustration expressed by Knicks guards Josh Hart and Quentin Grimes is the result of a poorly constructed roster with too many redundant players, contends Stefan Bondy of The New York Post. Bondy points out that team president Leon Rose created a roster imbalance this summer when he traded power forward Obi Toppin to Indiana for virtually nothing and signed shooting guard Donte DiVincenzo. The move gave New York too many guards and wings, without enough playing time to keep them all satisfied. Grimes is unhappy about losing minutes to DiVincenzo, but Bondy notes that the same situation occurred last year when Evan Fournier was replaced by Grimes. Bondy’s solution is to either move Grimes to the second unit, which would give him more play-making duties, or to balance the roster with a long-rumored trade for another star.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie has been willing to adapt his role amid heavy injuries to the Nets‘ backcourt, notes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Ben Simmons, Dennis Smith Jr., Cam Thomas and Lonnie Walker have all missed time already, forcing Dinwiddie to spend more time running the offense, and he has posted one of the best assist-to-turnover ratios in the league. Dinwiddie will be a free agent next summer, and Lewis says there’s a belief in league circles that his next contract could top the $81MM over four years that Hart received from the Knicks.
  • Smith, who refers to himself as “a savage,” has been showing why the Nets were so determined to add him in free agency, observes CJ Holmes of The New York Daily News. Smith returned Saturday after missing six games with a lower back sprain, adding another level of toughness to Brooklyn’s scrappy lineup.