Changes are coming for the New York Knicks.
That is an understatement.
With that being said many expect that guard J.R Smith could be one of the first to go when Phil Jackson attempts to rebuild this team into a winner.
And why not?
With his struggles on the court for most of the season and all of the unwanted drama he has brought off the court, you can make the case that you simply cannot win with a guy like Smith. Ten years into his career is a large sample size and he’s proven to be a player that teams are unlikely to be able to win with.
However that may not be the case for the Knicks.
According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, the desire for changes in New York doesn’t necessarily mean the Knicks will look to unload Smith in the offseason.
Smith does have a contract that is moveable, though given the baggage he presents it is unlikely the Knicks would get a whole lot in return.
He wound up signing for three years with a player option after 2014-15. There’s no telling what Smith will do. If he opts out, the Knicks will have more cap room for the 2015 free-agent class. For that reason alone, bringing in additional money past 2015 in a potential Smith deal doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Then there is the fact that Jackson is trying to surround Carmelo Anthony with as many scoring options as possible next season which won’t be easy given the fact that the team has no salary cap flexibility and no trade options.
During the Knicks’ 9-2 run across the last 11 games, coinciding with his being inserted into the starting lineup, Smith is averaging 15.5 points, 4.1 rebounds 3.4 assists in 30 minutes and shooting 47.7 percent. He’s up to 40 percent for the season, which is still disappointing and shouldn’t be anything worth bragging about, but Smith is starting to look better.
Smith officially became the team’s second-leading scorer after the Knicks win in Sacramento, at 13.4 points per game.
Berman also writes:
On the surface, Smith isn’t a Jackson player. He has off-the-court baggage with his shoelace stunts this season highlighting his immaturity. He isn’t the hit-the-open-man type of player Jackson craves and is a streaky defender. With Jackson in charge, the franchise is no longer tied to Smith’s agency, CAA. And would Smith be able to adapt to the triangle offense?
However, Jackson might take it as a challenge to salvage Smith’s enigmatic career. Remember Dennis Rodman, who was not in the same flaky category as Smith, who is an electric perimeter scorer when right and a perfect Anthony wingman.
At the end of the day you really can’t make a case for Smith being a large part of the Knicks future.
But with the inability to improve very much for next season, he very well could be safe in the short term as Jackson may very well elect to keep Smith aboard.