Northwest Notes: DSJ, Gay, Jazz, Thunder

Former lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. appears to have the 14th spot on the Trail Blazers‘ regular season roster all but locked up, writes Jason Quick of The Athletic.

The Trail Blazers entered training camp with 13 players on fully guaranteed contracts, and they’re unlikely to carry a 15th man on a permanent basis for luxury-tax reasons. That left Smith competing with Marquese Chriss, Quinn Cook, and Patrick Patterson for what may just be one available roster spot, and he has impressed the team so far this fall.

“There have been some behind-closed-doors practices and games where some of the other guys have stood out or played well, too,” Trail Blazers coach Chauncey Billups said on Monday after Smith put up 18 points and seven assists against Sacramento. “But, you know, you can’t hide what you saw today. I mean, (Smith) was really good.”

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Tony Jones of The Athletic takes a look at the impact that veteran forward Rudy Gay could have with the Jazz this season, both on and off the court. “He’s been a real leader for us so far,” Hassan Whiteside said of Gay. “He’s someone who is making a difference.”
  • Trading Derrick Favors and signing Gay will give the Jazz more flexibility to play against smaller lineups, John Hollinger of The Athletic notes in his season preview for the team, adding that he wouldn’t be surprised if Gay is Utah’s de facto backup center in the playoffs. Hollinger adds that the Jazz could reduce their luxury tax bill by unloading a couple smaller contracts in deadline trades and replacing them with prorated minimum signings.
  • Hollinger also previewed the Thunder‘s season, pointing out that the team remains $22MM below the salary floor for 2021/22, putting OKC in great position to accommodate a salary dump at the deadline.