Blazers point guard Nolan Smith will not be rejoining the Blazers next season. That’s not exactly out of left field, but it matters. The less money Portland spends on superfluous players the more space they’ll have to sign useful ones. It’s difficult to be an extraneous expense on a team that needs every able body they can find, and I feel badly for him, but the Blazers are just going in a new direction. He may have a tough time finding a new home.
You see, Smith will always have a burden to bear. He will forever be known (amongst those who have heard of him) as ‘that guy drafted ahead of Kenneth Faried’. With the 21st pick of the 2011 NBA draft, the Blazers selected Nolan Smith because they needed someone to back up, and learn from, Raymond Felton. At the time, it was anticipated that Felton would be good for the team and the rookie alike, but it didn’t turn out that way. Felton’s ineptitude led to Jamal Crawford sharing the point guard duties and Nolan Smith riding the pine. The once promising prospect faded into obscurity while the 22nd pick, Kenneth Faried, gained national acclaim.
I would love to be able to say that when the dust cleared after wrecking-ball-Raymond, Smith became the bench spark he was always meant to be, but, again, it didn’t turn out that way. Smith never reached his full potential in Portland, and just when he needed to shine for potential buyers he tore his patella tendon. Meanwhile, Kenneth Faried (albeit the superior player regardless) had climbed to new heights after being invited to participate in the 2013 All-Star weekend and becoming the Rising Star MVP. Now Faried is out of the playoffs, but Smith is out of a job.
So who will sign the player that never was? They’d have to be remarkably desperate or unduly optimistic to pick up Portland’s failed experiment. Or would they? Smith has only ever played garbage minutes and he’s still just 24 years old. More importantly, he’s cheap. It could very well be that a fresh start in a new city is just what he needs to get his career on track, even if he is playing for peanuts. Either way, the $1.37 million Portland was paying him can now go toward their bright future instead of a lingering reminder of their dark past.