Dallas Mavericks rookie guard Luka Doncic has been phenomenal this season, with 19.0 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.9 assists.
That may in part precipitate a backcourt shakeup, as noted by Marc Stein of the New York Times in his Friday newsletter (h/t HoopsHype).
Of note, front-office executives around the league think that Mavs guard Dennis Smith Jr., the team's first-round pick in 2017, could be headed elsewhere.
"The instant emergence of the Dallas rookie Luka Doncic, combined with longstanding skepticism about Smith’s ability to flourish alongside Doncic in an off-the-ball capacity, has spawned the expectation among many executives that Smith will eventually be moved," Stein wrote.
Stein also wrote that Smith was "bound to attract interest," in addition to Mavs swingman Wesley Matthews—whose contract expires after this season—should the team decide to make moves.
Tim MacMahon of ESPN also provided a follow-up to the Stein report:
Tim MacMahon @espn_macmahon
.@TheSteinLine mentions expectation among execs around league that Dennis Smith Jr. will eventually be moved. Mavs tell Steiny that they aren't shopping Smith, but that's semantics. Execs from other teams tell me that Mavs are at least gauging market for their 2017 lotto pick. https://t.co/AVYevoyif0
Smith has battled a right wrist sprain that's kept him out for 10 games, and he also sat another contest with a right ankle sprain.
Those injuries have impacted a rough sophomore season in which his 11.3 player efficiency rating ranks 298th in the league, per Basketball-Reference. He's also just 47th out of 98 qualified point guards in ESPN's defensive real plus-minus ratings.
Smith has tremendous talent, as exemplified by his solid rookie season in which he averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists, but he and Doncic haven't meshed well. Per NBA.com, Doncic has a plus-4.3 rating with Smith off the court and a minus-5.4 rating with Smith on the court.
Of course, the two can develop more chemistry with playing time together, but the early returns aren't good. Still, Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer explained why dealing Smith is a tough proposition in a November 27 piece:
"The Mavs are caught in a dilemma. There's no spot in the rotation for Smith if they play Doncic at point guard, but they can't afford to give up on Smith, either. The long-term consequences are too high. Their cupboard is almost completely empty without him. They have only two other players under 26: Finney-Smith, an undrafted free agent in his third season in the NBA, and Jalen Brunson, the no. 33 overall pick in this year's draft. Both have shown promise this season, but neither is likely to become a future star."
Dallas hosts the New Orleans Pelicans on Wednesday while trying to break a six-game losing streak.