JR Smith recorded his second DNP-CD (did not play-coach’s decision) in the past four games for the New York Knicks last night in a loss to the Charlotte Bobcats. Smith did not play last Thursday in a win over the Miami Heat. Many people suspected the benching was a result of Smith’s on the court antics, related to untying opponents’ shoelaces. As far as we know there is nothing medically wrong with Smith. So what’s the problem? Head coach Mike Woodson won’t say, leaving fans and media to simply speculate.
Due to a clause in the NBA‘s Collective Bargaining Agreement, today is the first day Smith can be traded due the new contract he signed with the Knicks coming with a 20 percent raise. This means it is time for the Knicks front office to make their move sooner than later.
Something is different about Smith this season as his numbers are down all across the board. During the 2012-13 season, in which Smith was the league’s Sixth Man of the Year, he averaged 18.1 points per game, shooting 42 percent, 4.5 rebounds per game and attempted 3.9 free throws per game. This season, Smith is averaging 11.4 PPG, shooting 36 percent, 3.8 RPG and attempting only 1.5 FT per game. The free throw difference is almost appalling. Smith shot 76 percent in 2012-13 but only 60 percent this year. He is averaging just 1.5 minutes per game less this year, so that is not an issue.
No one knows for sure the reasons for Smith’s struggles, but most fans can agree it is time for the Knicks front office to find a way to move on. Smith signed a new three-year, $18 million contract this past offseason before undergoing a knee operation. $6 million a year for a guy about to have surgery who has off-court issues was a questionable decision. It will certainly be hard for the Knicks to find a taker. While his numbers are down this year, his 2012-13 season was by far the best of his career. His career average is 13.7 PPG, so he is not too far off that this year.
For the Knicks, though, the presence of 2013 first-round pick Tim Hardaway Jr. makes it easy to move on from Smith. At first, many felt Hardaway was drafted to be his replacement as he would overprice himself out of the Knicks’ budget. But the Knicks made it work. Maybe they should have focused on a big man if they knew they would re-sign Smith.
Bench scoring is always a need in the NBA. Perhaps Mike D’Antoni, who coached the Knicks when they first signed Smith, could maximize his talents with the Los Angeles Lakers?
With the Knicks looking to clear cap space for the summer of 2015 (Raymond Felton, Tyson Chandler, Amar’e Stoudemire, Andrea Bargnani are all off the books), Smith’s contract extending till 2016 and a budding star in Hardaway already on board and earning the coaching staff’s trust, moving Smith seems like a no-brainer. It’s the execution of the idea that causes problems.