The Milwaukee Bucks have had a busy day working through the next phase of building their roster; after hearing that they’ve agreed to terms with center DeMarcus Cousins, they have also reportedly waived two-way guard Justin Robinson and replaced him with guard Ja’Vonte Smart.
Sources: The Milwaukee Bucks plan to sign guard Ja’Vonte Smart of G League Sioux Falls on a two-way contract. Smart has averaged 22 points in the G League this season. To create space, Bucks are waiving PG Justin Robinson, who had productive moments in 17 games.— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) November 29, 2021
First, let’s recap Robinson’s time with the Bucks. After a stint with the Wizards and Thunder, Robinson entered his third NBA season on a two-way contract but was thrust into a higher spot in the Bucks’ rotation due to a lengthy absence from Jrue Holiday and continually missing Donte DiVincenzo. To his credit, Robinson performed better than expected in nearly 200 minutes. Still, his box score profile paints a picture of someone who’s just not an NBA-caliber point guard, and his field goal percentages (31.6% from the field, 27.0% from deep) in particular stood out like a sore thumb. Robinson will presumably land with another franchise, either in the NBA or in the G-League, and hopefully he takes his experience with Milwaukee as a tool to find success in his career.
Now for the newcomer: Ja’Vonte Smart has no formal NBA experience; after three years at LSU, he went undrafted and spent both the Las Vegas Summer League and preseason as a part of the Miami Heat. Hot Hot Hoops had this to say about his game from his time in the NCAA:
In my view, Smart is an intriguing two-way prospect. He shot the ball at a 40.2 percent clip from range, though he hardly got off the ground in his release. He was a crafty player, developing a nice in-between game, though he wasn’t always as athletic or twitchy to arrive at such spots on the floor.
Smart was one of LSU’s primary initiators, but diverged into more of a combo guard at times. He was an adequate finisher, shooting nearly 64 percent at the rim, per Barttorvik. As evidenced throughout the 10 players, Miami isn’t afraid to take chances on players — especially creators for a potential trial run as the backup point guard, with Goran Dragic, Kendrick Nunn and Gabe Vincent entering free agency (though, Vincent’s the most likely to return). He’s an unselfish player with adequate court vision — so expect him to catalyze the offense as a secondary creator this summer.
During the preseason, he played about as well as you could expect of an undrafted rookie, posting modest stats across five games, logging 18.1 minutes per game. Based on what little footage is available, he seems like a comfortable ball-handler and a willing passer, but seems most effective when seeking his own shot.
In five games in the NBA G-League, Smart enjoyed more success as a member of the Skyforce. In a minuscule sample size, Smart posted 22.0 points on 0.494/0.396/0.917 splits and respectable advanced metrics. He may well be just another G-League guard that moonlights as an occasional ball-handler for the Milwaukee Bucks, but the talent Smart has shown flashes of is worth investigating further.
With Jrue Holiday and George Hill healthy, Smart’s main path to getting any NBA minutes is for Donte DiVincenzo to continue to rehab his ankle and hope that the Bucks’ training staff continues to manage the minutes load of Milwaukee’s backcourt. Both of these are likely scenarios at least through the new year, and considering the low bar for two-way players Smart has as good a shot as succeeding as any of the guards who came before him. It’s not likely, but who are we to rain on his parade? Welcome to Milwaukee, Ja’Vonte.