With a new, Phil Jackson-led regime at the helm and a glut of guards clogging up the roster, the New York Knicks are understandably looking to make some moves this summer.
In fact, according to ESPN’s Ian Begley, no fewer than three of New York’s backcourt bulwarks—Shane Larkin, Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith—are officially on the trading block. The goal being, it seems, to open up more playing time for second-year man (and the much cheaper) Tim Hardaway Jr., who is coming off a stellar performance at the Las Vegas Summer League.
And while the first two’s rookie deals ought to make them attractive targets for teams looking to bolster their perimeter depth, Smith’s comparably onerous contract (two years at a little over $12 million, including a year-two player option) makes him the much tougher sell.
In fact, even Smith acknowledges his putrid play last season pretty much guaranteed his spot on the block. In fact, he says he doesn't even blame Jackson for the wanting to do so. From an interview with ESPN's First Take (via ESPN New York's Ian Begley):
"No. Absolutely not. The way I was playing, I was playing like a person who didn’t want to be there," Smith said. "Not looking as focused as a person should be in that situation that we were, in the trenches. I wouldn’t blame them at all."
That’s not to say there won’t be suitors, of course. Put in the right situation with the right leadership around him, Smith remains, at the very least, a viable and potent scoring option off the bench. After all, it was just one year ago that Smith reeled in the league’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.
We’ve compiled a list of five possible landing spots for the man they call “Earl”—teams with both the offensive need and financial flexibility to look past Smith’s occasionally sophomoric on-court behavior.
Could Smith have already played his last days in Madison Square Garden? Let’s run some numbers.