Just How Big of a Distraction Is the Chris Smith Situation?

Ciaran GowanContributor IIINovember 25, 2013

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 30: Chris Smith #0 of the New York Knicks before playing the Milwaukee Bucks in the first regular season game at the newly transformed Madison Square Garden in New York City on October 30, 2013.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2013 NBAE  (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Nathaniel S. Butler/Getty Images

New York Knicks point guard Chris Smith is not an NBA-level player. Anyone who watched him in preseason or his two summer league appearances knows this.

Yet, somehow, on a team desperate for frontcourt depth, he has a roster spot on the Knicks as the fifth point guard.

Since making the roster, Smith has been sent down to the D-League affiliate Erie BayHawks, but that makes his place on the team no less questionable. The D-League is supposedly a place to nurture young prospects, but it's a stretch to think Smith will play any role in New York in the future.

Smith struggled in not one, but two summer league appearances.
Smith struggled in not one, but two summer league appearances.Garrett Ellwood/Getty Images

He was a role player in college and shot 22 percent from the floor in the semi-competitive summer league. It's uncomfortable to say, but it's hard to think that Smith made this team because of his ability as a basketball player.

Smith, of course, is the brother of J.R. Smith, who took a slightly under value contract to return to New York this summer following a Sixth Man of the Year campaign. The Knicks wouldn't have had enough money to sign a replacement had he walked and, resultantly, accusations of nepotism have followed with his brother joining him at MSG.

According to the NY Post, the NBA has already investigated the signing, deciding that Smith has "enough talent" to be an NBA player one day. That's questionable in itself, but he certainly isn't an NBA player right now, which makes giving him a fully guaranteed contract seem fishy.

If he was truly a prospect, the BayHawks could easily have signed Smith the way they also signed summer league standout Jeremy Tyler. Signing Smith to an NBA contract, however, ensures he gets a bigger pay day.

Knicks fans aren't the only people who've questioned Chris Smith's contract. Brandon Jennings, speaking slightly out of line as a fellow player, also thinks there are plenty of players deserving of NBA contracts ahead of Smith.

With Smith now in Erie, he isn't so much a distraction as a signal of where the Knicks' priorities are. They're in the business of pleasing people, even if those people happened to shoot the team out of the playoffs and earn a five-game suspension over the summer.

What's more, they clearly don't understand the make-up of their own team. New York was desperate for frontcourt depth going into the summerTyson Chandler's injury proves this—but they chose a fifth point guard over a legit backup center.

Smith's signing wasn't the only questionable move the Knicks made over the summer.
Smith's signing wasn't the only questionable move the Knicks made over the summer.Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Knicks' links with the CAA (the agency that represents both Smith brothers, amongst others in the organization) have been discussed ad nauseam, but at a certain point you have to question whether or not it's legal.

Adding Smith isn't the only strange CAA-driven decision the Knicks have made over the last few months. They also got rid of general manager Glen Grunwald (who, by all accounts, had done a fantastic job in a tough situation) in favor of Steve Mills, who has no experience as a GM but strong links with the CAA.

Head coach Mike Woodson (another Knicks employee represented by CAA) also had his contract extended through 2014-15, despite early speculation from CBS Sports' Ken Berger that his job could be in danger. Given how important this year is for New York, it would make sense to save extensions until he's proven he can take this squad further than the second round.

Signing him now ensures he gets his money for next year no matter what.

James Dolan has long held the Knicks back from contention and, as long as he owns the team, it's hard to see the franchise returning to its glory days. As fans, all we can hope for is that the Smith situation becomes a big enough distraction for the NBA to reinvestigate and hopefully look into some of the franchise's other suspicious moves, ideally with severe consequences for Dolan's ownership of the team.