Portland Trail Blazers: Examining Dennis Smith Jr and Marquese Chriss

Dennis Smith Jr., CJ McCollum, Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, Detroit Pistons (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
Dennis Smith Jr., CJ McCollum, Damian Lillard, Portland Trail Blazers, Detroit Pistons (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Portland Trail Blazers have made a few moves in the last few weeks to amp up their roster for training camp. With the season approaching quickly, it’s a great idea to add some extra bodies on non-guaranteed deals to the roster, to have some real competition for the last few spots.

With second-round pick Greg Brown taking up the thirteenth roster spot when he was signed a few weeks back, there are now just two spots left on the roster. When you take into consideration that Neil Olshey almost always leaves one roster spot open to start the season so he has roster flexibility, then there is really just one roster spot up for grabs.

Dennis Smith Jr and Marquese Chriss will likely battle it out for the last roster spot as they have been signed to recent deals. Let’s examine the impact that these two guys could have.

Dennis Smith Jr

Dennis Smith Jr is an uber-athletic point guard who drafted by the Dallas Maverick in 2017.

Standing six-foot-two with extreme athleticism, Smith Jr was, unfortunately, part of one of the more dysfunctional Knicks era of the last decade, after he was traded there in 2018 when the Mavs discovered Luka Doncic. By the team they had new management in town there was a new point guard in Immanuel Quickley who was the team’s young ball handler.

There’s no doubt that Smith Jr had something special coming out of NC State, averaging 18 points a game to go with six assists and two steals on relatively strong efficiency.

Smith Jr was actually named on the NBA 2017/18 All-Rookie team after an excellent rookie year where he averaged 15 points and five assists, but he just didn’t get the role or minutes on the Knicks after the trade to push on and elevate his career. Smith only played 58 games in three seasons with the Knicks, almost ending his NBA career.

Now though, Smith Jr potentially has a chance to revive his NBA career by making the fourteenth roster spot his.

Though Smith never showed the ability to stretch the floor as a shooter, he showed promise as an energy guy that could to get to the line, to rebound, and to defend. With the Blazers not having a backup point guard, Smith’s ability to guard the one and the two is close to elite.

He wasn’t always consistent but when he is locked in he is a great defender at the point of attack who can finish strongly at the rim.

Marquese Chriss

Marquese Chriss, like Smith Jr, was a high draft pick, albeit in the 2016 class, who was picked by the dysfunctional Phoenix Suns. Sadly for Chriss, after a strong rookie season for the Suns, he bounced around the league for a few years until finding a home on the Golden State Warriors in 2020.

Standing six-foot-nine with great athleticism, Chriss carved out a role on the Warriors, playing the best 61 games of his career where he averaged career highs in every category.

Chriss is just 24, and after a broken leg ruined his season last year, if he is fit this year he can play a role and get his NBA career back on track.

As a fluid and strong athlete weighing in at 240 pounds with a seven-foot-one wingspan, Chriss is more of a five than a four. But, he would give this team more lineup flexibility because he can play next to Robert Covington, or Larry Nance Jr. He gives a lob threat on offense, as well as some passing ability from the elbows or the perimeter. His lack of shooting isn’t a problem if he is next to floor spacers who play the power forward position.

On defense, he can guard multiple positions and protect the rim well. He may foul too often, but at just 24 he is still maturing in the NBA. We do an in-depth breakdown on Chriss here. 

The Blazers will likely pick one of these two players for their last roster spot, and considering the depth they already have on the roster, both would be excellent pickups as their 14th men.

Training camp starts on September 28.

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