After J.R. Smith won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award last season, the New York Knicks were very eager to re-sign their top shooting guard. Smith was a key component on a 54 win team that won the Atlantic Division, and the Knicks rewarded him with a three year, $18 million contract. Smith was expected to reprise his role as the first man off the bench and the team’s second leading scorer to complement Carmelo Anthony.
Unfortunately for the Knicks, Smith has been a disaster this season. He is averaging just 11.0 PPG while shooting 33.3% from the field and 33.6% on three point attempts. Smith is also averaging just 2.6 APG and 4.2 RPG, and he remains a defensive liability. Smith is perhaps the biggest embodiment of the Knicks’ struggles this season, as he is a player who plays strictly isolation basketball and takes bad shots. His poor performance has crippled the Knicks’ offense.
Making matters worse was Smith’s performance in yesterday’s double overtime win over the Milwaukee Bucks and his comments after. Smith shot 17 threes in the game and made just 5, good for an anemic 29.4%. After the game, Smith tweeted “trust me give me that chance again and I’ll shoot it again”. This lack of awareness about his own flaws sums up everything that is wrong with Smith and the Knicks. When a role player like Smith is that cold, he just needs to stop shooting. Everyone has their off nights, and shooting 17 threes in a game when you’re struggling is a terrible strategy.
It is performances like these that make it clear that re-signing Smith was a mistake from the Knicks. In their defense, they were so capped out that they didn’t have many other options, but Smith is clearly causing more harm than good to the Knicks right now. They need him to perform like he did last season, and there is simply no evidence that he can do that based on his play through the first quarter of this season. Even more concerning is that fact that Smith’s career statistics make it look like last season was a one year aberration and that this year’s performance is much more indicative of the player he actually is.
The Knicks have been rumored to be investigating all kinds of trade options, and they need to be trying to make a deal that rids them of Smith. His contract is reasonable enough enough that there could be a contender who is interested in making him a role player, although the Knicks will not likely receive anything of significant value in return. However, if Smith is going to keep playing like this, the Knicks are going to be much better off giving Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. the minutes at shooting guard. The Knicks made a mistake in bringing Smith back, and they need to find a way to fix it.