It's Time for NY Knicks to Cut Losses and Trade JR Smith

Jonathan WassermanNBA Lead WriterDecember 16, 2013

Dec 1, 2013; New York, NY, USA;  New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith (8) advances the ball during the first quarter against the New Orleans Pelicans at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sport

It's as if the basketball gods were merely testing the New York Knicks this past offseason. They gave them the option to let J.R. Smith walk in free agency or to sign him long term. 

This was all just a test. 

The moment it was announced the Knicks had come to terms with Smith, the basketball gods slammed down their big, red, shiny buzzers in disapproval, making a loud, blaring sound of "wrong." And then the floodgates opened.

Just four days after signing his deal, Smith underwent major knee surgery on his knee that would knock him out three to four months. Not too long after, the NBA busted Smith for his third failed marijuana test, which would cost him a five-game suspension to start the year.

The writing was on the wall here. 

So far on the year, Smith is shooting 33 percent from the floor. That's 130 misses to just 65 makes. Insane. 

Whether his knee has been affecting him or not, Smith's decision-making and inefficiency have been borderline destructive.

It's not just a cold-shooting hand, something he experiences far too frequently anyway. Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported that Smith and coach Mike Woodson got into a "heated exchange" regarding shot selection following a game against the Chicago Bulls on December 11.  

That might have explained Smith's one shot attempt in 26 minutes against the Boston Celtics, a childish move if you ask me. 

“Uh . . . nah. I don’t think so,” Smith told Isola when asked if he'd ever taken that few attempts before. Isola also asked Woodson about it, who responded with“I don’t know what that’s about.”

Come on, fellas. The Knicks don't have time for mind games here. And I'm not saying Woodson is innocent in all of this, but Smith just doesn't ever make things easy. There always seems to be something, whether it's a postseason elbow to Jason Terry or a bonehead social-media post. The Knicks made a mistake by re-signing Smith to a three-year deal, and now they're suffering the consequences.

If they can find a taker for Smith, who will be eligible to be traded (via Marc Berman of the New York Post) on January 15, then the Knicks need to strike. You don't want him around here for another two-and-a-half years. That's crazy talk. 

I'm just not sure who's going to be willing to take Smith, who'll have roughly a $7 million player option in 2015-16 (ShamSports)—not to mention he's coming off knee surgery.

Nov 27, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Clippers shooting guard Jamal Crawford (11) guards New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith (8) during the second quarter at Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

It's become painfully obvious that this just isn't a guy you want as a core member of your nucleus. Despite winning Sixth Man of the Year last season, Smith didn't exactly have teams knocking down his door in free agency. 

He's volatile, and that diminishes his value. But more importantly for the Knicks, it kills his appeal as a trade target.

Good teams won't want to jeopardize what they've built, and bad ones aren't likely to want the cap hit. 

Still, general manager Steve Mills needs to be aggressively pursuing deals from now until February, as the current roster isn't fit to achieve win-now goals or long-term growth. 

ESPN's Chris Broussard mentioned the Knicks might be inclined to move Tyson Chandler if it meant a team would be willing to take Smith back as well. It's probably the only type of deal a team would make—a package one that includes another asset along with Smith. 

For New York, the emergence of rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. has also made Smith that much more expendable. Not only does Hardaway offer a similar perimeter-scoring touch, but he's cheaper and a whole lot more coachable.

At the end of the day, management and fans have to come to the realization that this core isn't contender material. Realistically, it was over when Amar'e Stoudemire was forced into a role-playing position. No team can survive that type of clog, with his contract preventing management from adding substantial talent, while he's no longer contributing anything close to max value—which is what the Knicks are paying him. 

New York can and probably will turn it around sometime this season. But Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith as two of the top three guns isn't a recipe this team should want to cook with for the next few years. 

Keeping Smith might give the Knicks a better shot in 2013-14, but not to the point where they're a threat to the Miami Heat or Indiana Pacers. They're better off developing Hardaway, moving Smith and looking to position themselves for a more successful "reset" phase when Stoudemire's, Chandler's and  Andrea Bargnani's contracts come off the books in 2015. 

Smith is a fun guy to root for when he's in the zone. But he's just not there often enough. And when he's not, he can be harmful. 

It's officially time to give up on trying to rebrand J.R. Smith's role and character and time to start rebuilding this franchise for the future.