In not all that surprising news, Russ Smith’s college coach Rick Pitino mentioned yesterday during a press conference (found here) that the second round pick has been given a guaranteed contract.
“Today we are extremely excited because he has signed contract,” Pitino said. “He has a contract committed, whether he physically signed it or not. A guaranteed contract.”
Terms of the deal aren’t yet clear but Smith’s father told the Courier Journal that the deal is for two-years with an option for a third, a common rookie deal.
While most second rounders don’t receive contracts before making a team in training camp the move to sign Smith early makes a lot of sense for the Pelicans who clearly fell in love with Smith and jumped at the chance to acquire him in the NBA Draft. The signing allows the Pelicans to have control over Smith for at least three years, which could be important given that many people think Smith could wind up being one of the steals of the draft.
There is also the chance that Smith could be the team’s backup point guard entering the season depending on what happens the rest of the summer. The Pelicans already let Brian Roberts become an unrestricted free agent this summer and Roberts is drawing interest from other teams making a return look unlikely. Austin Rivers could become part of a trade to make the Omer Asik trade work though as we go forward it is looking more and more like Dell Demps may be trying to work other ways to clear the room and keep Rivers. The Pelicans have also been rumored to be interested in Jameer Nelson who would surely pass Smith on the depth chart immediately.
But if things all break right for Smith, Rivers, Roberts and Nelson could both be playing in other cities next year and Smith could bring his shooting and defense into a 10 to 15 minute a night role as a rookie. At the very least though Smith has some semblance of security for the next few years which is more than many second round picks could say.