Could JR Smith Returning to New York Keep Knicks in Title Hunt?

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Could JR Smith Returning to New York Keep Knicks in Title Hunt?
Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

The New York Knicks are in talks to re-sign Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith, which would bring back the team's second-highest scorer last year.

Smith and the Knicks are working to finalize the details, but for now it seems, barring an unforeseen disaster, it is virtually a done deal.

Smith received offers elsewhere, but in the end it seems he was happy taking whatever the Knicks could offer him while staying comfortable on a solid Eastern Conference contender.

For the Knicks, getting to the playoffs is definitely nice and all, especially given the way the 2000s went for them, but the goal is always going to be contending for a championship. They lost in the second round these past playoffs, dropping four out of six games against the Indiana Pacers, and were ultimately disappointed with the results.

Going further back, New York hasn't made it further in the playoffs since making the Eastern Conference Finals back in 2000 and losing the NBA Finals in 1999.

Of course, the last time the Knicks actually won anything was back in 1973. With a title drought of that proportion and a superstar at their core in Carmelo Anthony, every move from the Knicks should be working toward a championship, and their fans are expecting nothing less.

So, is picking up J.R. Smith for another few years a move a generally positive step for New York in its quest for a return to glory? What Smith brought to the Knicks last season was confidence, even if he was a bit too confident at times.

As far as shooting goes, Smith was what Smith has always been: streaky. Whenever a player can shoot 36 percent from the field in January and then bump it up to 43, 44 and 48 percent over the course of the final three months, there's definitely a problem with consistency.

That amount of inconsistency can be a value or a blessing, depending on what run he may be on. However, when your best player off the bench can score 18 points a game and get hot enough to put up 30, he's obviously going to have a positive impact, even if the negative does rear its ugly head a bit too often.

Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images
Quite frankly, whatever the Knicks were able to bring Smith back for was a bargain if you look only at his positives. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reports that the Knicks are expected to sign Smith to a four-year deal approaching $24 million under the average player salary exception.

That's incredibly cheap for a player who is not only the reigning Sixth Man of the Year Award, but showed definite improvement on his questionable tendencies. Smith became a more aggressive rebounder this past season, picking up 5.3 boards per game after topping a four-rebound average just once in his career before. Beyond that, Smith's impact on defense, when he was trying hard (that's the key with Smith), was actually quite positive.

However, New York still remains a pace behind the title contenders throughout the league, at least until a few questions are answered.

Harry How/Getty Images
We still have no idea about Amar'e Stoudemire's health, or even the health of recent addition Andrea Bargnani, according to Jared Zwerling of ESPN New York. Chris Copeland is likely on his way out of town, meaning the Knicks will have lost Copeland, Marcus Camby, Jason Kidd and Steve Novak from last year's team.

Filling out the rest of their roster with serviceable players is going to be difficult, but they were able to dig up Copeland and Pablo Prigioni from out of nowhere last season. On the flip side, Tyson Chandler should be healthier next season, and we'll see another step forward from Iman Shumpert while the team adds Tim Hardaway Jr. to the fray.

New York's problems don't start and end at Smith. In fact, if Smith's indiscretions are a team's biggest problem, then it's likely a great squad. It's the front office which has leased New York's future on the next few seasons and the constant injury questions that keep the Knicks just out of reach of a title.

Until play actually begins next season, the only thing known about the Knicks is that their salary situation is dire. Somebody needs to write an obituary dedicated to New York's cap space.

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