This week, the Mavericks’ season has gone from bad to possibly worse. A season-ending injury to team leader and sixth man J J Barea coupled with the potential imminent departure of Dennis Smith Jr. prove uncertainty has run amuck as of late. The Mavericks are sending a message, the only question is: are other NBA executives listening?
There hasn’t been a bigger advocate for retaining the services of DSJ than me. His dynamic hops and flair for the spectacular create an unavoidable following but realistically it’s clear the Mavericks don’t see enough tangible improvement necessary to exclude him from trade speculation.
This scenario should be eerily familiar to some seasoned MFFL’s who may recall in the late ’90s when future Hall-of-Famers Steve Nash and Jason Kidd were teammates with the Suns. Ironically enough, Nash was eventually traded to Dallas after only two seasons in Phoenix. Now it would seem the shoe is on the other foot even though some outlets have downplayed the Sun’s interest in Dennis Smith Jr. When discussing trades, it’s always wise to never forget the age-old mantra “where there’s smoke there’s fire”.
Trades and professional sports are synonymous. Patrons are constantly reminded trades are a part of the entertainment package. Most players enter the league understanding a trade could be a part of their reality. No one knows this better than Adrian Wojnarowski, ESPN NBA Insider, who gifted this “Woj Bomb” to Mavs social media on Tuesday:
The Dallas Mavericks are escalating discussions to find a trade for point guard Dennis Smith Jr., league sources tell ESPN. Phoenix and Orlando have engaged in ongoing talks with Mavs. Smith Jr., has sat out three straight games with what team has termed a sore back.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 15, 2019
After Tuesday’s practice, Rick Carlisle (Mavs coach) explained how he navigates the potential distraction the trade rumors of the two-year guard bring. He stated:
“We all get into this business knowing it is dynamic, knowing that trades are possible, knowing that everything is possible, coaching changes, you name it. So its already a boiling pot of water a couple of degrees here or there, big deal. We all gotta be committed to being professionals and playing coaching regardless. That’s just how I view it”.
At this point, the proverbial packing up of DSJ’s locker can continue. It’s hard to read this quote and believe otherwise. A boiling pot and a cohesive basketball unit aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive. Like most professions, employees and bosses bump heads with an understanding their relationship is results driven. The more an employee produces, the more likely they are to remain with the team. The anemic start to Smith Jr’s season (12.6 PPG, 2.6 REBS, 3.9 AST) hasn’t helped his cause much so expecting the Mavericks to move on could be a harsh reality. Having already battled knee injuries in high school and college its only prudent of the club to tread lightly. Objectively scrutinizing any potential trade involving DSJ could prove it may be time to move on.
The best ability is, without question, availability! This characteristic has eluded Dennis Smith Jr. this year. He has played in 65% (28 of 43) of games this season, missing the last three and expected to be out tonight versus the Spurs. This is unacceptable for a second-year player looking to establish himself as a teams cornerstone, not to mention the reputational ramifications heard league-wide by his absence. Teams place a high value on availability especially when there is an injury history involved. Teams like most employers must be able to count on you. Contrary to this notion, Rick Carlisle spoke with Mike Fisher, of CBS Sports, and informed us Tuesday Smith would miss practice due to a stomach virus.
Rick Carlisle says he expected Dennis Smith Jr. to be at #Mavs practice today. Then coach spoke to agent. Then DSJ called in sick. Boiling pot.
— mike fisher ✭ (@fishsports) January 15, 2019
Factors such as these can be described as hieroglyphics when attempting to make sense of it all. The Mavs could use this as an opportunity to set a tone for the team, potentially resurrecting an otherwise dead season. The emergence of Luka Doncic has made it crystal clear the Mavericks can legitimately shift their focus to a win now model, centralizing their intent to cultivate a strong supporting cast conducive to Luka’s game.
As time fades, so does the recollection and understanding of history and the hindsight mentality it brings. The constant moving parts of an NBA trade can make it difficult to grasp a functioning comprehension of the topic; however, a consistent theme is where there is smoke there is fire, meaning teams don’t discuss players they want to keep with other teams. The Mavs have identified DSJ as an expendable cog due to the groundbreaking game of their All-Star Rookie, Luka Doncic. Below is a list of top 10 picks since 2012 who were traded by their original teams before their second season concluded.
History would suggest Dennis would prefer to avoid this list as it’s quite underwhelming, to say the least. Individually, it seems the injury-plagued guard realized he may not flourish as much with the Mavs and decided to pull a Kyrie Irving. In today’s NBA that scenario isn’t as far fetched as perceived. The talent level of Dennis Smith Jr. is undeniable – however, questioning his desire to be a Maverick is justifiable given his absence from games and recent vague illness excuse.
This should be an exciting time for the Mavericks. They have finally acquired valuable assets that can warrant equitable to high return on investment. If we are to remain objective and learn from Mavs moves of the past, trading DSJ is a lucrative proposition they cant pass up. This could possibly catapult the team to a new – dare I say – playoff level?
Photo - Brian Babineau, NBAE via Getty Images Twitter - @wojesnp, @fishsports Stats - ESPN