The Brooklyn Nets continued their defense-first mentality with their latest signing.
“The Nets make Smith Jr. their first addition of the summer,” Charania wrote.
Smith, 25, was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks. He spent less than two seasons in Dallas before the Mavs traded him to the New York Knicks ahead of the trade deadline in 2019.
The deal – a one-year, $2 million pact – is the latest in a series of similar contracts the former highly-touted prospect has signed over the last several seasons as he’s spent time with the Detroit Pistons, Portland Trail Blazers, and most recently back in the Eastern Conference with the Charlotte Hornets.
Smith averaged 8.8 points 4.8 assists, and 3.1 rebounds this past season.
The points and his 54 appearances for Charlotte in 2022-23 are his most since the 2018-19 campaign when he split the season between the Mavs and Knicks.
He also averaged a career-high 1.4 steals this past season highlighting what is arguably his best asset for the Nets who, while rich in wing depth, also lack many players capable of consistently handling the ball.
“I featured Dennis Smith Jr. in my pre-draft free agency piece. Almost solely because of his defensive impact,” tweeted Law Murray of The Athletic on July 1. “Charlotte’s defense was at its best when DSJ was on [the] floor (106.2 def. eff.).”
If there is a concern it is that he is a career 29.9% shooter from three and shot 21.6% this past season.
Smith’s defense and ability to run an offense are only part of why he could fit well in Brooklyn.
Dennis Smith Jr. Adds Downhill Threat to Nets
In his final postgame press conference, Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn was asked what he felt the team needed to add this offseason. Right at the top of his list was a downhill threat to put pressure on the rim.
“I think for our group going forward…the ability for multiple people to get downhill and get to the paint and create opportunities, that’s a need for us, yes,” Vaughn said on April 22.
Brooklyn ranked 27th in shot frequency within 10 feet after the trade deadline, per NBA.com.
And, in his 15 starts in place of an injured LaMelo Ball, Smith averaged 10.7 points, 6.9 assists, and 4.4 rebounds.
Nets Left Off List of Suitors for Blazers Damian Lillard
Free agency brought with it the long-awaited trade request from Blazers star Damian Lillard. Lillard is close with Nets swingman Mikal Bridges and Brooklyn has long been rumored to be interested in trading for the seven-time All-Star. However, the Nets were absent from ESPN NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski’s reported list of potential suitors.
Things got even grimmer for the Nets’ prospects of landing Lillard after Charania reported that the Blazers star’s sole focus was a trade to the Heat.
Nets general manager Sean Marks was pretty clear in his exit interview on April 23 that he wouldn’t be in any hurry to make another trade for a superstar just because one became available, and this could simply be that thought process playing out.
Lillard will turn 33 years old in July and has $216-plus million owed to him through 2026-27.
Brooklyn’s largest move this offseason was still arguably its most important, even before adding a talent such as Lillard. They re-signed forward Cameron Johnson to a four-year, $108 million contract locking up the other key player asset acquired in the trade deadline deal with the Phoenix Suns for Kevin Durant.