REPORT» Trail Blazers Sign Dennis Smith Jr. To Training Camp Roster

by Casey Holdahl
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The Trail Blazers currently have 13 players under contract for the 2021-22 season roughly three weeks prior to the start of the training camp. And while it's not uncommon for teams to leave one roster spot open, it seems unlikely the Trail Blazers will keep two spots open going into the regular season (it also might be a violation of the CBA's rules on minimum roster size, though the COVID-19 pandemic protocols threw some of that into limbo). Given that, it stands to reason that at least one player who comes to Portland's training camp will end up with a spot on the regular season roster, with the prevailing assumption being that one of the veterans who played for the Trail Blazers at the Las Vegas Summer League would have a leg up in the competition. 

But while it seems safe to assume at least one open roster spot with go to a veteran, the debate over which veteran that might be got a bit more interesting with the report Thursday from ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that guard Dennis Smith Jr. has signed a training camp contract with the Trail Blazers...

A 6-2 guard, Smith Jr. has played in 179 games, with 131 of those being starts, since being selected out of North Carolina State by the Dallas Mavericks with the 9th overall pick of the 2017 Draft. He was named to the All-Rookie second-team and seemed as though he was poised for stardom, or at least a long NBA career, before being traded prior to the 2019 deadline to the New York Knicks in the deal that netted the Mavericks Kristaps Porziņģis and Tim Hardaway Jr., among others.

After starting 18 of his first 21 games with the Knicks, he appeared in just 34 games during the 2019-20 season, starting just three times, and would play just three more games with the Knicks in 2020-21 before being traded to the Pistons for Derrick Rose and draft picks. He played 20 games with the Pistons last season, averaging 7.3 points on 46 percent shooting from the field and 35 percent shooting from three, 3.7 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 19.6 minutes per game, but has yet to be signed for the upcoming season. 

But by signing on to participate in Portland's training camp, Smith Jr. will have a legitimate chance to earn a regular season roster spot while the Trail Blazers get a no-risk opportunity to kick the tires on a former lottery pick who is not yet 24 years old. While some might question bringing in another guard with Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum, Norman Powell, Anfernee Simons, Ben McLemore and Tony Snell all under contract, having the chance to acquire someone who has shown himself to be a legitimate NBA rotation player for nothing more than a training camp contract is a no-brainer regardless of position. And it's a small thing, but adding another guard allows guys who don't need preseason reps at this point in their careers to sit out while still allowing the team to run five-on-five. 

Training camp starts on September 28. 


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