Why New York Knicks' Only Option Is to Hold onto JR Smith

Joshua J VannucciniSenior Analyst IIIJanuary 9, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 16:  J.R. Smith #8 of the New York Knicks drives against Trevor Ariza #1 of the Washington Wizards during the second half at Madison Square Garden on December 16, 2013 in New York City. The Wizards defeat the Knicks 102-101. 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.   (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

The New York Knicks have made a ton of headlines this season, but for all the wrong reasons. The team needs to be making positive changes, but guard J.R. Smith isn't helping. The Knicks are reportedly looking to trade the reigning Sixth Man of the Year, but their best option is to hold onto him for now.

Per a report from ESPN.com's Ian Begley and Marc Stein

Sources close to the situation said Wednesday that the organization has become increasingly frustrated with Smith's on- and off-the-court transgressions and may feel that a fresh start would be best for all parties.

This has emerged amongst the childish antics Smith has started on the court. Courtesy of a report by Begley on ESPNNewYork.com, the guard was fined $50,000 for "recurring instances of unsportsmanlike conduct," which stemmed from Smith untying the shoelaces of opponents in free-throw shooting situations on the edge of the key.

Head coach Mike Woodson was less than impressed as well, calling Smith's actions "unprofessional" and that "Something's gotta be done. It has to stop. I'll address it tomorrow when I see him, and then we'll go from there."

While it's obviously a ridiculous situation to even bring up with a nine-year NBA veteran, it isn't the sole reasoning behind the Knicks wanting to move him.

Smith has had a less than impressive season thus far, contributing 11.3 points on a career-low 34.8 percent from the field. It's a far cry from last season's stellar 18.1 points per game off the bench, a nightly performance that earned him the aforementioned seasonal award for best reserve in the NBA.

According to NBA.com, Smith is shooting just 31.6 percent from the mid-range area, with 73.3 percent of his made shots coming unassisted. Per Synergy Sports (subscription required), he's shooting 29.2 percent on isolation plays, which is where he's run 21.1 percent of the time.

Putting two and two together, Smith isn't doing a great job of taking it on himself to score points. 

Again, it's frustrating to see for the Knicks, both because he's an integral piece to the team being successful and because Smith signed a three-year, $18 million deal in the offseason. 

Yet again, two and two must be put together for New York to realize moving him is not the solution. 

A ton of NBA players can be frustrating on the court to the point of nail biting, hair pulling, face palming and any other physical displays of exasperation you can think of. Smith has been a front-runner for players of such a category, but he is simultaneously talented enough to make it worth it on occasion.

Despite Smith's poor decision-making offensively and his alarming on-court demeanor, he remains the second-best scorer for the team. Per the report from ESPN.com, "The reality, though, is that Smith's transgressions -- combined with his declining production -- figure to complicate any efforts to move him."

The combination of the trouble Smith's caused lately on the court and his poor play has dramatically reduced his value. New York could seemingly find a trade partner, but a report from CBSSports.com's Ken Berger quoted a rival executive expressing "Good luck with that" in regards to the Knicks looking for a receiving team. 

It didn't end there either:

As such, keeping Smith is a situation that (while seemingly incredulous) is in the Knicks' best interest. New York has the fifth-worst offensive in the league, scoring just 94.9 points on 43.3 percent shooting as a team.

Smith's poor play this season obviously contributes to that, but the Knicks are unlikely to find a player of value in a trade that would improve the offense. It'd be a one-sided move, as few teams (if any) would trade any assets for a player performing badly on a contract that doesn't equate to his production.

Smith's contract, which pays him $5.5 million this season according to HoopsHype, isn't necessarily one that is easy to move either. Players who share a similar income for this season (in the case of a straight swap), such as the Charlotte Bobcats' Gerald Henderson, the Portland Trail Blazers' Robin Lopez or the Denver Nuggets' J.J. Hickson, are playing superior for teams to even consider a deal. 

New York can re-evaluate the offense and run Smith in areas he's more likely to help. If it's a case of Smith disregarding offensive schemes, benching him is also an option until he's ready to contribute effectively.

It's a distraction the Knicks don't need at this point of the season, as the team looks to improve a dismal 12-22 record. Despite this, it's one New York can deal with internally and solve without rushing into negotiations that will leave the team potentially empty-handed.

Smith has been an agent of controversy for much of his career, and the Knicks knew what they were getting into by signing him to a long-term deal. It's come to New York taking this one on the chin, but it's a hit the team can take in stride and be thankful for down the stretch.

NBA Player Salaries information courtesy of ESPN.com