There’s still no telling how long Damian Lillard will be out of the lineup as he takes more time to manage his nagging core injury. If their superstar point guard is out for an extended period, though, the Portland Trail Blazers will at least have several ball-handlers to pick up his slack.
Portland on Friday guaranteed the contract of backup guard dennis smith jr. for the season’s remainder, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The Portland Trail Blazers are guaranteeing the contract of guard Dennis Smith Jr., for the rest of the season, sources tell ESPN.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) January 7, 2022
Smith signed a non-guaranteed contract for the veteran’s minimum with Portland before the season. He beat out Quinn Cook, Marquesse Chriss and Patrick Patterson for the Blazers’ final roster spot after separating himself during training camp and preseason action.
Smith is averaging 5.4 points, 2.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 17.2 minutes per game this season as Portland’s fifth guard behind Lillard, C.J. McCollum, Anfernee Simons and Norman Powell. He’s appeared in 19 games, starting three, ingratiating himself to head coach Chauncey Billups with a dogged commitment to defense and much-improved ability to make plays for his teammates off the bounce.
A lottery pick of the Dallas Mavericks in 2017, Smith hasn’t lived up to post-draft expectations of stardom, struggling to find his footing in the NBA. Though unlikely to re-emerge as a starter down the line, Smith has done enough during his debut season in Portland to cement himself as worthy of a roster spot. Still just 24, he probably isn’t finished rounding out the rough edges of his game, either.
Expect Smith to see regular minutes off the bench with Lillard sidelined. The eight-time All-Star is scheduled to be re-evaluated by team medical personnel next week, at which point the Blazers will update Lillard’s status.