Less than four years ago, Dennis Smith Jr. was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. But after a fairly promising rookie season with the Dallas Mavericks, Smith was dealt to the New York Knicks as part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade, and never really found his place at Madison Square Garden.
This season, under new coach Tom Thibodeau, Smith has struggled with injuries and found himself on the periphery of the team, playing just 28 minutes over three games so far. As a result, he’s reportedly asked the team to allow him to play in the G League bubble next month, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
Eager for reps and an opportunity to demonstrate he’s still an NBA prospect, Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. has requested to play in the G League bubble, the Daily News has learned. The Knicks are expected to grant Smith Jr.’s G League request, according to a league source.
In order to complete some semblance of a season, the G League is set to take advantage of the bubble set up that the NBA used at Disney World. Eighteen teams, including the Knicks’ G League squad, the Westchester Knicks, will travel to Florida to play a 15-game season that tips-off in mid-February.
While it takes a bit of bravery and honest self-reflection to ask to be sent down to the G League, this is a smart decision by Smith. He’s barely played for the Knicks and doesn’t seem to have a clear path towards regular minutes, especially not after rookie guard Immanuel Quickley’s brilliant start.
In the bubble, he’ll not only have a chance to actually play some meaningful basketball again but also an opportunity to perhaps impress another team ahead of his impending free agency this summer. His rookie deal ends after this season, and it seems unlikely he’ll be back in New York given how things have gone.