Sunday afternoon the Blazers announced that they will be assigning rookie guard Will Barton and sophomore guard Nolan Smith to their NBA-DL affiliate Idaho Stampede.
Barton is making his second trip to Boise this season. Smith is being assigned down for the first time in 2012-13.
Here’s the official release from the team:
TRAIL BLAZERS ASSIGN WILL BARTON AND NOLAN SMITH TO D-LEAGUE’S IDAHO STAMPEDE
Barton and Smith to join Portland’s NBA Development League affiliate
PORTLAND, Ore. (January 6th) – The Portland Trail Blazers have assigned guards Will Barton and Nolan Smith to the Idaho Stampede of the NBA Development League, it was announced today by Trail Blazers General Manager Neil Olshey.
The two players will join the Stampede for the NBA Development League Showcase in Reno, Nev. The Stampede are first scheduled to play on Monday, Jan. 7, against Texas.
Barton appeared in two games (both starts) with the Stampede from Dec. 7-8, posting averages of 19.5 points and 6.0 rebounds in 42.0 minutes per game. The 6-foot-6 rookie has played in 28 games for the Trail Blazers this season, averaging 2.9 points and 1.4 rebounds in 10.1 minutes. Barton was selected by the Trail Blazers with the 40th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft.
In 18 games this season with the Trail Blazers, Smith is averaging 2.5 points and 1.2 assists in 8.2 minutes per game. Now in his second NBA season, Smith was selected by the Trail Blazers with the 21st pick in the 2011 NBA Draft.
My feelings about this double assignment are thus: Barton’s maddening inconsistency can be addressed by giving him some minutes in which he can dominate his opponents and be the feature of the offense; for Smith, hopefully this is a measure to keep him engaged as his Blazer career continues to slip away.
At this point, Nolan Smith can be rightfully considered a wasted pick. He lost his back-up minutes to Ronnie Price in the preseason, Portland decided not to pick up his third year option (something that is pretty uncommon for this team to do), and through 31 games his playing time has all but disappeared.
That being said, there could still be some value in Nolan Smith. Look at J.J. Hickson, the contract-year motivation has maybe turned his career around. Of course Hickson is getting the kind of minutes Smith can’t, but still getting Nolan out on the court for some productive run might be the kind of thing that keeps Smith from losing all interest in what is likely to be his final season in Portland. I highly doubt there will come a time when the Blazers are in need of something only Nolan Smith can give him, but with nobody emerging as a real leader off Portland’s bench, I would rather have everybody ready to participate. Remember, anything’s possible.