Dennis Smith Jr. Trade Rumors: Rivals 'Monitoring' Mavs PG as Luka Doncic Shines

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorDecember 24, 2018

PHOENIX, ARIZONA - DECEMBER 13:  Dennis Smith Jr. #1 of the Dallas Mavericks during the NBA game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 13, 2018 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Suns defeated the Mavericks 99-89.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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 Matthewswhose contract expires after this seasonshould the team decide to make moves.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN also provided a follow-up to the Stein report:

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.

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