Since being drafted with the 21st selection in the 2011 NBA draft by the Portland Trail Blazers, Nolan Smith has done very little to convince Blazers personnel and fans that he was worth the early draft investment. However, due to numerous circumstances, most notably the emergence of Damian Lillard, Smith has not been able to receive ample playing time since being drafted. This season Smith is averaging just 2.5 points and 1.2 assists in 8.2 minutes.
In a recent article by Chris Haynes from CSNNW.com, Smith spoke about his optimistic outlook on his impending free agency. The Trail Blazers elected not to pick up his third year rookie option leaving Smith as an unrestricted free agent this next summer. As speculated earlier this season, Smith has now been assigned to Portland's NBA D-League affiliate the Idaho Stampede. Portland in an odd way is doing Smith a favor, by allowing the current third string point guard the chance to strut his stuff in front of numerous NBA executives, scouts, and personnel.
Smith will join a somewhat surging Stampede team (currently on a 3-game winning streak) and should relish in the opportunity to play in his most allotted playing time since NBA Summer League. In two games this summer, Smith averaged 25.1 minutes a contest and dropped 18.5 points and 2.5 assists per game.
Coby Karl has been the starting point guard for Idaho, but hasn't exactly started the season in impressive fashion. Karl has stated that this is his last attempt at a push for a spot on an NBA roster. Karl was a member of Portland's training camp along with Smith, and now the two will be competing alongside each other once again. Karl is averaging 12.8 points, 5.1 assists, and 2.81 turnovers per game.
Stampede head coach Mike Peck will more than likely turn to Smith now for the starter position as Idaho will play it's two scheduled games in the NBA D-League Showcase Monday ( vs. Texas Legends) and Tuesday ( vs. Canton Charge). Smith will be going head to head against formidable competition enhancing the possibility of him turning in a noteworthy performance as something to build upon heading into free agency, or as a potential trade candidate.
Smith will go up against Mike James who recently joined the Texas Legends and is looking to impress the Dallas Mavericks. James is a crafty veteran, and Smith will encounter a very motivated matchup in his first NBA D-League contest up against James.
Smith and the Stampede will then face the Canton Charge, and their young defensive minded point guard Jorge Gutierrez. Gutierrez is averaging just shy of two steals a game, and has recently been turning in strong performances for the Charge. Smith will once again have his hands full.
Nolan Smith's forthcoming D-League assignment could be a career defining moment. If Smith can "showcase" the skills and talent that he believes he possesses in front of the important onlookers at the NBA D-League Showcase, perhaps Smith can flip the script on his young NBA career.