After he was away from the team for five games with what the Dallas Mavericks described as a back injury and illness, second-year point guard Dennis Smith Jr. returned to the lineup on Tuesday night. He finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and four assists in their win over the Los Angeles Clippers.
While the official reasoning for Smith's absence was unrelated to the trade rumors swirling about, it didn't take a genius to put two and two together. ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported the team was "escalating discussions" to try and find a trade for the youngster, and had discussions with both the Phoenix Suns and Orlando Magic.
Now, Shams Charania is reporting that the Mavs recently had discussions about Smith with the Magic, Knicks and Lakers. Per Charania's report, there was difficulty finding good value for Smith, and the two sides will see how the next few weeks go. Via The Athletic:
Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and the Mavericks had been working to accommodate a trade for him, but receiving equal value for a talented, former No. 9 overall pick just one year into his four-year rookie-scale contract is nearly impossible. The Mavericks discussed Smith deals with several teams, including Orlando, New York and the L.A. Lakers, league sources said.
Both sides needed to reunite, however, and Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle apologized to Smith on a phone conversation on Sunday and expressed remorse over the situation, sources said. Fences needed to be mended, and Smith returned to the Mavericks for Tuesday's home game against the Los Angeles Clippers and the sides will see how the new reuniting period goes.
The 21-year-old Smith was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but there are already concerns about whether Smith can be a long-term fit next to the Mavericks' face of the future, Luka Doncic. Doncic primarily operates as a point forward when he's on the floor, and has already established himself as the team's best player. Smith, meanwhile, is not the best at playing off-ball, and the Mavericks haven't fared well when they play together.
For the season, the Mavs' net rating is minus-4.6 points per 100 possessions in 708 minutes with Doncic and Smith on the court. Meanwhile, in the 764 minutes Doncic has played without Smith, the Mavericks are outscoring their opponents by 1.9 points per 100 possessions. That's obviously a huge difference.
It's unclear what Smith's role will be if he sticks with the team. Likewise, it's unclear exactly what the market will be for Smith if the Mavericks, back in action on Friday against the Pistons (8:30 p.m. ET -- watch on fuboTV with the NBA League Pass extension), continue to explore trading him. There aren't a ton of teams in the league who need a point guard, and the Mavericks are selling pretty low on the former top-10 pick. Still, it might be worthwhile for a team like the Suns or Magic to take a flier on him considering their dire point guard situations.