DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks are optimistic that they can reconcile and move forward with point guard Dennis Smith Jr. and are insistent they won’t trade their 2017 lottery pick unless they get good value in return, sources told ESPN.
The Mavs have shopped Smith, 21, throughout the season but haven’t received any offers that have tempted them to pull the trigger on trading a player whom the Dallas front office still believes has potential to develop into a star, sources said.
“Plan A is still to fix this,” a team source told ESPN.
Smith has recently expressed that he hopes to be traded, and he is frustrated with his role, as Rookie of the Year front-runner Luka Doncic has seized the reins of the offense and has had friction with coach Rick Carlisle, sources said.
Smith has not played in the last four games under suspicious circumstances, sitting out three games due to what the team announced as back soreness and having his agent call in sick for him before he missed Tuesday’s practice and Wednesday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs.
Carlisle declined to say before Wednesday’s game whether he had been in touch directly with Smith, who tweeted earlier in the day about a friendly interaction with a fan while out to lunch that afternoon.
Agent Glenn Schwartzman, who represents Smith, has not responded to repeated attempts to contact him.
A source said Thursday night that the Mavs don’t expect Smith to join them on their upcoming trip to Indiana and Milwaukee but have had productive communication with their young guard.
Several team sources downplayed the friction between Smith and Carlisle, characterizing it as a coach being demanding of a young player in the best interests of his development. Smith’s poor decision-making and his tendency to over-dribble have been sources of frustration for Carlisle, sources said, but such growing pains are typical for young players.
Sources said Carlisle would welcome continuing to coach Smith.
There are legitimate concerns about Smith’s long-term fit as a complementary piece next to Doncic, who is widely viewed as a superstar in the making whom the Mavs plan to build around for the next generation.
The Mavs’ offense has sputtered with Smith and Doncic on the floor together, scoring only 100.9 points per 100 possessions in 687 minutes, which is only one-tenth of a point better than the Chicago Bulls‘ league-worst offensive efficiency. The Mavs average 108.4 points per 100 possessions overall.
Doncic and Smith, who live in the same apartment building and frequently hang out together, have developed a friendship off the court.
Smith is averaging 12.6 points, 2.6 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, down from 15.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.2 assists per game during his second-team All-Rookie campaign.
There have been, however, encouraging signs about Smith’s development this season. His shooting has improved significantly, with his field goal percentage (.395 to .443) and 3-point percentage (.313 to .375) having increased. Smith is also a drastically improved defender, highlighted by his win-sealing stops on All-Star candidates Tobias Harris and Paul George.
“Dennis is a great player,” Doncic said after Wednesday’s loss. “He can do a lot of things for us, so we miss him.”