We are quickly approaching the NBA’s trade deadline, which happens to take place less than a month from now on February 7. Even though the Suns are in the cellar of the Western Conference standings at 10-33, could they be plotting to make a move to finally shore up their point guard position?
According to The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor, who appeared on his weekly podcast with Danny Chau and Jonathan Tjarks, 2017 lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. is a name to watch as Phoenix and Orlando have both been linked recently.
“I’ve heard Dennis Smith — obviously there’s been the trade rumors with him — Orlando I’ve heard is interested in him,” O’Connor said on The Ringer’s Corner 3 podcast. “I’ve heard Phoenix is also interested.”
This is interesting, since Vice President of Basketball Operations James Jones said on Tuesday night at Bright Side Night that Phoenix would most likely fill their backcourt void via free agency rather than trade. However, it’s hard to deny the potential Smith Jr. has even though it’s been a rough adjustment alongside rookie sensation Luka Doncic in Dallas.
From a pure talent perspective, Smith Jr. would be an upgrade over De’Anthony Melton and Elie Okobo but how big would the gap truly be? That’s the question Jones and Co. have to ask in the Suns’ front office, if they truly are considering making a move for DSJ.
The profile is there for Smith Jr. to have success within head coach Igor Kokoskov’s system, though. Per Cleaning The Glass, Smith Jr. is in the top 80th percentiles for steal and block percentages for point guards this season. Also, the former North Carolina State PG has hit on 37.9 percent of his catch-and-shoot opportunities during the 2018-19 campaign (37.6 percent when combining his rookie season). With a ball dominant combo guard like Booker already in the fold, if Smith Jr. can hit catch-and-shoot 3s while also playing strong on-ball defense against guards his size, those two could work together.
DSJ has also seen his efficiency totals noticeably rise up. His true shooting numbers have seen a plus-6.1 jump compared to last season, which currently sits at an average 53.4 percent clip. And even though he hasn’t fared well next to Doncic, his usage rate has gone way down, which is for the best with a prospect like Smith Jr. who gets a tad too erratic when the ball is in his hands too much.
However, even with the positives, there are some warning signs with pursuing a young player like Smith Jr. Really, he mimics Josh Jackson in a way as his assist-to-turnover ratio has slipped (1.85 - 17/18; 1.26 - 18/19) while his effectiveness at the rim also regressed three percentage points from 57 to 54 according to CTG’s database. Speaking of Smith Jr.’s turnovers, he ranks in the 4th percentile for all point guards with a 19.2 turnover percentage.
What would it even cost to acquire a 21-year-old point guard who was a lottery pick 18 months ago? You would have to think the future first-round pick from Milwaukee via the Eric Bledsoe trade would definitely have to be included, but what would the Suns want to give up in return for DSJ?
Logically, either one of Okobo or Melton. The other option includes Phoenix sending out on of their four wings: T.J. Warren, Mikal Bridges, Kelly Oubre Jr., and Jackson. If I had to lean one side or the other, Dallas likely wants back a wing, but with the recent season-ending injury to J.J. Barea, they might want back a point guard themselves.
Should the Suns pursue Dennis Smith Jr. at the trade deadline?
This poll is closed
Yes, he fits well within the Suns’ young core
No, much better options elsewhere