J.R. Smith was one of the most important players the New York Knicks had last season, as he was a crucial scorer and won the NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award. As a reward for his outstanding performance, the Knicks signed Smith to a 3-year, $18 million contract. However, Smith has been absolutely terrible this season, averaging just 11.5 PPG in 32.4 minutes while shooting an absymal 34.8% from the floor. Smith is one of the biggest reason the Knicks play so much isolation basketball on offense, and he contributes very little on the defensive end of the floor.
Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway have shown that they can replace Smith’s offensive production, making him completely expendable. If Smith isn’t scoring in bunches then he has little value, and the Knicks need to find a way to get his salary off their books. Unfortunately, Smith is not exactly the type of player that other teams seek out in a trade. The Knicks could use some more frontcourt depth and a wing defender, but they will have trouble finding a trade market for Smith.
There are only three teams that I think might have some interest in Smith. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Bobcats and Denver Nuggets all have a use for Smith’s skills, but it remains to be seen if they would have any interest in making a deal. The Bobcats are the least likely team, simply because of financials. They are clinging to the 7th spot in the Eastern Conference, and they want to end their playoff drought. However, due to the cap situations of both teams, it would be very difficult to find a trade that works.
The Nuggets are also a long shot, but they could definitely use a shooting guard who can knock down some threes. Of course, the Nuggets had Smith on their roster for five years before allowing him to leave as a free agent. The Knicks would probably be interested in a trade for Darrell Arthur, though the Nuggets would have to throw in another player to make salaries match. This is unlikely, but it could make sense for both sides.
The most likely destination for Smith is the Cavs, who badly want to make the playoffs this season but rank just 25th in the NBA in offense. The Cavs are rumored to be trying to move Dion Waiters, as they are sick of his antics. If they were to trade Waiters, C.J. Miles just isn’t good enough for them at shooting guard. The Knicks might be able to sell the Cavs on trading for Smith to beef up their scoring punch, and the Cavs have a couple players to make a deal work. I seriously doubt they would have any interest in sending Waiters to the Knicks, but Earl Clark or Alonzo Gee would fill the Knicks’ need for a defensive minded small forward who is younger and more skilled than Metta World Peace.
Smith can’t be traded until January 15th, and there is no current evidence to believe the Knicks are trying to move him. However, trading Smith would be in the best interest of the team, and there are a couple potential deals that would improve the Knicks both now and in the future. It is clear they made a mistake in re-signing Smith and that he is not necessary for them to succeed this season. It will be a tough trade market, but dealing Smith is the best way for the Knicks to improve this season.