Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle has been extremely supportive of Smith, even if the 21-year-old point guard was out with mysterious injuries and illnesses, but it does not look like that relationship will last much longer.
A league source told Sporting News’ Sean Deveney last week a Smith exchange “is a matter of when, not if.” The Mavericks are searching to construct around Luka Doncic, that has played significantly greater with Smith about the seat, so Smith has rapidly gone from a pruning slice into a trade advantage.
Despite Smith’s struggles early in his career and his battles with Carlisle, there should still be lots of interest because the Feb. 7 trade deadline approaches. The problem is locating a deal which makes sense.
Smith and the Mavericks had been working to adapt a transaction for him, but getting equal value for a talented, former No. 9 overall pick only 1 year into his four-year rookie-scale contract is nearly impossible. The Mavericks discussed Smith deals with several teams, such as Orlando, New York and the L.A. Lakers, league sources said. Both sides had to return, however, and Dallas head coach Rick Carlisle apologized to Smith on a telephone conversation on Sunday and expressed guilt over the circumstance, sources said. Fences needed to be repaired, 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 interval goes The Magic can take a chance on Smith. His timeline matches up with their other building blocks, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba. The Knicks are in a comparable position. Frank Ntilikina hasn’t played constant minutes during the season as a portion of David Fizdale’s rotation, so maybe New York has changed its view of the previous lottery pick.
And that next group? The Lakers are a curious landing spot considering they have Lonzo Ball and Rajon Rondo on the roster, and LeBron James does the bulk of the ballhandling when he is on the floor. It’s possible these talks only reached the exploratory phase, and thus don’t read too far into it just yet.
Deveney notes teams are hesitant to commit entirely to Smith when there will be opportunities to pursue other guards in free agency over the summer. Smith’s title will continue to float around the rumor mill, but there is an opportunity he stays in Dallas through this season.