Knicks' Dennis Smith Jr. Out vs. Nets with Oblique Injury

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 26, 2019

New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. (5) drives against Brooklyn Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie (8) in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2019, at Madison Square Garden in New York. The Nets win 103-101. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin).
Corey Sipkin/Associated Press

New York Knicks guard Dennis Smith Jr. will miss Thursday's game against the Brooklyn Nets with a strained left oblique, the team announced.

Smith, 22took strides in his sophomore campaign while splitting time between the Knicks and Dallas Mavericks. Although his scoring and assists were down from his rookie season—he averaged 15.2 points and 5.2 assists in the 2017-18 campaign, compared to 13.6 points and 4.8 assists in 2018-19—he shot better from the field (42.8 percent) and from three-point range (32.2 percent).

Smith's statistical decline was in part due to the presence of Luka Doncic in Dallas, who took the NBA by storm and played a huge role as both scorer and facilitator. Smith had to adjust to having another playmaker on the squad.

After the Mavericks traded him to the Knicks in the Kristaps Porzingis deal in January, Smith served as New York's starting point guard and the primary facilitator. However, he has largely been utilized off the bench this season.

There's obvious uncertainty about the future of the Knicks, especially after they missed out on the top overall pick and all of their top free-agent targets this summer. New York's young core is built around Smith, RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson and Kevin Knox, among others.

Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina will have to share a heavier load of point guard duties Thursday with Smith unavailable.