Trade Packages and Landing Spots for Mavs Guard Dennis Smith Jr.
With just over three weeks to go before the Feb. 7 trade deadline, a new name has emerged on the trading block: second-year Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith Jr.
On Monday evening, ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski and Tim MacMahon reported the Mavs are intensifying their efforts to move Smith, who they no longer see as a foundational piece alongside rookie sensation Luka Doncic.
The report names the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic as the two teams most heavily involved in discussions with the Mavericks, although parameters are yet to be hammered out. The Mavericks would reportedly like to include the $18.6 million expiring contract of veteran guard Wesley Matthews in any Smith deal, which makes things more complicated.
While Phoenix and Orlando are the two teams most prominently linked to Smith, there are a handful of teams around the league to watch.
Dallas Mavericks receive: Aaron Gordon
Orlando Magic receive: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews
Orlando needs backcourt help in the worst way, with D.J. Augustin having started all 42 games. It's no surprise the Magic have been among the teams most strongly connected to Smith.
Out of the Magic's three young bigs—the others being Mo Bamba and Jonathan Isaac—Gordon is the one the current front-office regime of John Hammond and Jeff Weltman didn't draft. Although there's been talk that Bamba, Isaac and Gordon are versatile enough to play together, they've shared the floor for just 23 minutes this season.
The Magic re-signed Gordon in July to a four-year, $84 million contract that declines year by year, precisely to make it more movable in situations like these. For Dallas, Gordon would fill a long-term hole in the frontcourt. The Mavs can bank on untapped potential, and he fits Doncic's developmental timeline.
Dallas Mavericks receive: TJ Warren, Josh Jackson
Phoenix Suns receive: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews
Like the Magic, the Suns are desperately in need of any warm body to run point and could talk themselves into Smith having enough star potential to eventually form a dynamic backcourt pairing with Devin Booker. Dallas would like to attach Matthews to any deal, and his hefty expiring contract would either be a piece for Phoenix to flip by the deadline or, more likely, negotiate a buyout.
This trade would be a swap of underperforming prospects, with Jackson and Smith both top-10 picks who haven't made the kind of leaps in their second seasons that many anticipated. In his sophomore campaign, Jackson has started just 12 games for the Suns, shooting 40.6 percent from the field and 30.2 percent from three-point range.
Both teams would be hoping that a change of scenery will lead to a breakout. If he realizes his full potential, Jackson slots in nicely next to Doncic as an athletic wing who can impact both ends of the floor. That's a big if, but there's enough evidence to suggest a leap isn't going to happen for him in Phoenix. There's no downside for either team to take this gamble.
New York Knicks
Dallas Mavericks receive: Frank Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr.
New York Knicks receive: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews
Many, including LeBron James, have pointed out that the Knicks incorrectly drafted Ntilikina over Smith in 2017. He was a Phil Jackson pick, though, and his role under David Fizdale has been inconsistent in his second season. This trade would be another swapping of guard prospects in hopes that a change of scenery will jump-start their careers.
The Knicks would love to get off Hardaway's contract, which is set to pay him $18.1 million in 2019-20 and $18.9 million in 2020-21. They're planning to chase big names this summer in free agency, so clearing that cap space with Matthews' expiring contract would be a major benefit for them.
For Dallas, taking on that money is a big ask.
But the argument in favor is the opportunity to surround Doncic with veterans who are able to contribute in meaningful ways. Hardaway is a productive scorer in his prime at age 26, and he could play off the ball next to Doncic. He would make the Mavs better right now and give them certainty in their rotation going forward.
Dallas Mavericks receive: Kris Dunn, Jabari Parker
Chicago Bulls receive: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews
The time is coming for the Bulls to decide whether Dunn is their long-term answer at point guard. He has thus far proved himself a solid defender, but his offensive game leaves a lot to be desired. Smith is the opposite.
If the Bulls don't believe Dunn is their point guard of the future to pair with Zach LaVine, they could take a chance on Smith, who would give them a more dynamic offensive look.
This trade could get done with or without the inclusion of Parker and Matthews, but both teams have been trying to unload the veterans' expiring contracts for months, so they might as well make them a part of this deal. Both would likely be headed for the buyout market regardless.
Dallas Mavericks receive: Mike Conley
Memphis Grizzlies receive: Dennis Smith Jr., Wesley Matthews, J.J. Barea
Conley is a close to ideal fit next to Doncic in the backcourt, as he's a smart defender who can play on or off the ball and shoot from the outside. He'd immediately make the Mavs significantly better at both ends of the floor, and he would make Rick Carlisle happy as a veteran playmaker—the coach famously doesn't give much rope to younger guards.
The question here is whether the Grizzlies are ready to move on from Conley, who has been one of the faces of the most successful period of their franchise's history. There's a strong argument to do it now and install Smith as the new point guard to pair with standout rookie big man Jaren Jackson Jr.
After a surprising start to the season, Memphis has been in a tailspin and currently sit at 14th place in the Western Conference, four games out of the eighth seed. A playoff run isn't a lost cause, but it's on life support.
Marc Gasol can opt out of his contract and become a free agent this summer, and the Grizzlies still owe Conley a lot of money ($97.5 million over the rest of this season and the following two).
As tough as it would be emotionally to trade Conley, this deal would give them a chance to clear their books and add a prospect who still has some upside to put alongside their new franchise centerpiece in Jackson, ushering in a new era of basketball in Memphis.