Although the team will part with Smith, a positive locker room presence who was in the last season of his three-year deal, Washington adds another youthful wing player while moving away from the traditional centers the team has stockpiledover the years.
“This trade allows us to continue to work to improve our team and gives us a young, developing player in Sam whose versatility and athleticism at the forward position will allow him to earn an opportunity to contribute,” Wizards President Ernie Grunfeld said in a team statement. “We wish Jason the best moving forward and appreciate the value he brought to our team as a great teammate and true professional.”
Dekker, a first-round pick (No. 18 overall) of the Houston Rockets in 2015, has also played for the Los Angeles Clippers, in addition to the Cavaliers, over his four-year career. This season with the Cavaliers, Dekker has appeared in only nine games and averaged 6.3 points while hitting on 38.5 percent of his three-point attempts. For his career, Dekker has scored 5.3 points per game.
While Dekker has not found his footing yet in the league, he was an athletic scoring threat when he helped lead Wisconsin to the 2015 NCAA Final Four. He joins a frontcourt group that consists of Jeff Green, Markieff Morris and Thomas Bryant, who has started at center since Dwight Howard left the team due to a lower back soreness and the subsequent surgery to repair the injury.
Smith, 32, was the oldest player in the Wizards' locker room and was due $5.45 million in the final year of his deal. In 2016, the Wizards signed the 7-foot Smith, as well as Ian Mahinmi, in free agency. While Smith appeared in 74 games in his first season in Washington, his role had diminished. Smith made the effort to develop a three-point shot — attempting a career-high 78 threes during the 2016-17 season — but mostly remained out of the rotation. This season, Smith has appeared in 12 games.
Hailed by coaches and players for his selflessness, Smith earned respect within the locker room. John Wall called Smith one of his favorite teammates and in 2017, Smith won a National Basketball Players Association award for being “the teammate with the biggest impact on and off the court.”
During the same season, as Smith’s minutes dwindled and DNPs stacked up, Wall said: “He’s just always ready, he prepares himself every game, every day, like he’s going to get minutes. If he doesn’t, he’s one of the main guys cheering for us, and we couldn’t ask for more from a guy like that.”