This signing is nice for the Knicks, who are a guard-heavy team that lacks depth at the center position. Smith had played the last four years with the New Orleans Pelicans and wasn’t having a bad season this year until he had season-ending surgery to fix a cartilage issue in his knee in January. In 31 games, Smith averaged 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds in almost 27 minutes per game. Those rebounding and minutes stats were both career highs for the 7-footer out of Colorado State.
While injuries may be an issue, he is somebody who can prove to be a reliable player on a roster for years to come if given the chance. He is more experienced than Cole Aldrich, who the Knicks just re-signed, and could fit well in Phil Jackson‘s triangle offense system. He has the ability to stretch the floor and knock down mid-range jumpers. He can rebound better than Andrea Bargnani (10.3 rebounds per 48 minutes compared to 8.5) and is a career 76 percent free-throw shooter. If he can become a better passer, he could be a very good role player in Jackson’s system in limited minutes off the bench.
With Bargnani and fellow big man Amar’e Stoudemire facing injury problems at this point in their careers, the unproven talents of Aldrich and Jeremy Tyler and a guy like Samuel Dalembert, who hasn’t played more than 25 minutes per game in the past four seasons, on their roster, adding a guy like Smith will help fill in some of those minutes if he can stay healthy. The more options for Jackson and head coach Derek Fisher the better, as they are working with little frontcourt depth and little financial flexibility until next season.
Smith has a lot of intangibles that can make him a solid role player for the Knicks next season. Look for him, along with the other big men on their roster, to get a good amount of chances to prove themselves on a rebuilding roster next year. Even though the deal is just for one year, if Smith can play well, he might be able to earn an extension with the Knicks, or a sightly bigger pay day from another team next summer.