J.R. Smith was sensational for the New York Knicks this season, despite a postseason collapse in which he shot 33 percent from the field. During the regular season, though, he averaged 18.1 points per game and won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.
Smith is more than likely going to opt out of his contract and pursue a bigger deal, but the Knicks have his “Early Bird” rights, which will allow them to offer him a four-year deal around $5 million per year. After New York was eliminated by the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Smith said that he wants to retire as a Knick.
According to Marc Berman of The New York Post, Smith wants more than an increase in his paycheck—his younger brother, Chris Smith, is rumored to be a factor in J.R.’s re-signing. The younger Smith was invited to training camp, despite averaging 5.2 points per game in the Summer League while shooting 29 percent from the field, but was waived after he injured his knee.
If the Knicks actually do this deal and take on a player who has no business being on their roster, they are going to seriously hurt themselves next season.
Chris could definitely hold his own as an NBA player—after all, he did take Louisville to the Final Four—but New York is already very deep at the guard position, and they don’t need another one who probably won’t play all that much.
Getting J.R. for $5 million per year is a tremendous value in itself, being that he was the Sixth Man of the Year, but this season alone should have shown the team how valuable roster spots are. With a team as old as the Knicks were this season (the oldest in NBA history), depth and bench production is imperative.
Taking on a guy who won’t be able to contribute a whole lot just to satisfy another player is a mistake.
The only thing is, this deal seems to be all but signed. Chris has tweeted several times saying that he will be joining his older brother on the floor next season, but who knows if they’ll even be on the same level—the young brother spent time in the D-League after he returned from the unfortunate knee injury he suffered in the preseason.
If the Knicks sign him to satisfy JR and then send him down, that would make sense. Whether or not that will be the case remains to be seen.
Front office decisions like this put the Knicks in such a hole for a couple years, one which they seem to be breaking out of—the team has gotten farther in the postseason in each of the last three seasons.
It'd be a shame to watch New York revert back to its old ways just when it seems that the team is finally on its way to being a perennial contender once again.