Detroit Pistons will give Dennis Smith Jr. a possibility regardless of crowded level guard room

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Dwane Casey says it usually — he likes teaching the underdog. He grew shut with Christian Wooden final season and helped him develop from fringe NBA participant to one of many league’s best-scoring huge males in Houston this 12 months. This season, former lottery decide Josh Jackson has established himself as a rotation participant after spending a lot of final 12 months within the G League.

On Monday, the Detroit Pistons welcomed one other participant who may gain advantage from a recent alternative. The Pistons formally introduced their commerce of Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks, which introduced again a 2021 second-round decide and Dennis Smith Jr. — a high-flying level guard who was the ninth general decide within the 2017 draft.

ANALYSIS: Derrick Rose commerce reveals Pistons aren’t ready to revamp their roster

Detroit Pistons guard Saben Lee (38) attempts a layup as New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. defends during the second half of a preseason NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Detroit.
Detroit Pistons guard Saben Lee (38) makes an attempt a layup as New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. defends throughout the second half of a preseason NBA basketball sport Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Detroit.

After a strong rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks, Smith has seen his position lower in every season since. He solely performed 28 minutes with the Knicks this season, and was assigned to the G League bubble earlier than the commerce.

He joins a Pistons crew that has a right away want on the level guard place. Killian Hayes is rehabbing a torn labrum in his proper hip and gained’t be re-evaluated for a return to play till late March. Delon Wright has settled in as the start line guard, so Smith will compete with Wright, Rodney McGruder — who has not too long ago emerged as an choice at level guard — and two-way guard Saben Lee for minutes.

“It’s an incredible alternative for him to return in and present us what he can do as a degree guard, and we’ll see what occurs,” Casey mentioned on Monday. “He’s going to get the chance right here. I advised him it’s a clear slate of no matter motive why he didn’t play in New York, or why Dallas traded him. I like guys with little little bit of an edge and one thing to show.”

Dec 13, 2019; Sacramento, CA, USA; New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (5) warms up before a game against the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Center.
Dec 13, 2019; Sacramento, CA, USA; New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (5) warms up earlier than a sport in opposition to the Sacramento Kings at Golden 1 Middle.

Smith earned NBA All-Rookie second crew honors after the 2017-18 season, through which he averaged 15.2 factors, 5.2 assists, 3.8 rebounds and a steal. However Dallas traded him to the Knicks halfway via his sophomore season in a package deal for Kristaps Porzingis. Whereas Smith initially posted strong numbers in New York and began 18 of his 21 video games with the Knicks that season, his minutes have since decreased.

He appeared in 34 video games final season, and solely three this season. He struggled to crack Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation this 12 months, and requested to play with the Westchester Knicks, their G League affiliate, final week earlier than the commerce to Detroit.

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For the Pistons, the transfer for Smith carries little danger. Casey praised his defensive method and pick-and-roll capability, and can problem him to make strides as a passer. Detroit could make Smith a restricted free agent this summer time by extending him a qualifying provide, and Smith, within the final 12 months of his rookie deal, has each motive to benefit from no matter taking part in time he receives.

At worst, Smith will provide some level guard depth this season and the Pistons can transfer on this summer time. At greatest, Smith exceeds expectations and the Pistons can lock him all the way down to a long-term deal.

“On the ball, he’s a wonderful defender, he’s a pit bull on the ball, which we like,” Casey mentioned. “Offensively he’s a wonderful decide and roll participant, which is a giant a part of our offensive id. The opposite a part of that’s he’s received to have the ability to distribute it and discover individuals, set the desk offensively to run different issues that now we have in our package deal. His energy is his decide and roll sport, his pace, athleticism and quickness on each ends of the ground.”

Regardless of the commerce for Smith, the Pistons are nonetheless dedicated to the purpose guard who had been already on the roster. When Hayes returns this season, it’ll be as much as Casey to determine the brand new rotation. However Wright and Lee are nonetheless very a lot in Detroit’s future plans, he mentioned. And he needs to seek out minutes for everybody.

“I’m stepping into with an open thoughts so far as the scenario, however everyone goes to get a possibility there,” Casey mentioned. “Don’t wish to put something in concrete proper now. All these guys are going to be getting that chance.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Comply with him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

This text initially appeared on Detroit Free Press: Commerce to Detroit Pistons a ‘nice alternative’ for Dennis Smith Jr.



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