The Charlotte Hornets signed Dennis Smith Jr. to fill their hole at backup point guard. Isaiah Thomas occupied that position in 2021-22 and did a phenomenal job. He was a late-season acquisition, but the Hornets went 12-5 when he suited up.
Smith’s signing could spell the end of Thomas’ tenure in Charlotte. Smith is a former lottery pick from the 2017 NBA Draft. He’s been on a few different teams in five years, but returning to the state of North Carolina could be a good move for him. He went to NC State and is a native of Fayetteville, NC.
Here’s what Smith’s signing could mean for the Hornets.
What Signing Dennis Smith Jr. Could Mean For The Hornets
Isaiah Thomas is likely gone
As mentioned above, Thomas might not be re-signed after management brought in Smith. Having depth at the point guard position is a logical move, but unfortunately for Thomas, the backcourt might be a little too crowded in Charlotte.
LaMelo Ball is running the show with Terry Rozier at the two-guard spot. Smith, James Bouknight and rookie Bryce McGowens will be options to back them up. If Thomas is re-signed he probably won’t see the floor too much. Veteran leadership is always nice to have off the bench, but is that deep-reserve role one he’s willing to play?
Thomas played fairly well last season despite his continued inability to find a permanent home in the league. He only averaged a little eight points per game, but could surely be more prdocutive in an expanded role. It all depends on what is available for Thomas in free agency.
If he is okay with playing a role like Udonis Haslem’s with the Miami Heat, Charlotte would probably love to have him. If he is fixated on trying to resurrect his career in a larger role, he should leave to pursue greener pastures.
DSJ could be more than a backup
No, Smith will never start over Ball. Not a chance. Why not over Terry Rozier, though?
Smith did not live up to the hype of his draft stock after the Dallas Mavericks selected him ninth overall in 2017. Once Luka Doncic was drafted, he was quickly shipped out for pieces that made better sense for their roster.
Smith has struggled to find a home in the NBA, but his various stops through the league have not been the best situations for him to thrive. It is possible he could find his groove in Charlotte. The best-case scenario is that he could turn into what we thought he could, or at least a dependable backcourt reserve.
Now, Rozier has been great with the Hornets. The past two seasons have been the best of his career. Still, he is replaceable. Smith has been working out for the Hornets for weeks. Apparently, what won Charlotte over was his skill and effectiveness on the defensive side of the ball.
Offensively, Smith has always been pretty creative at finding ways to score. He’s averaged over 13 points per game as a starter in his career. Hooked up with a talented playmaker like Ball, anything is possible. This is obviously an optimistic outcome. Please do not invest too much hope into this.
The Hornets are winners no matter how Smith’s addition pans out. They didn’t make any major moves over the offseason. Other than hiring Steve Clifford, there have not been any major changes to the roster. Smith could inject some energy into the team. Since entering the league he has been a bouncy athlete. He should fit in nicely into what the Hornets have going on already.