After a season in which they’ve fired the head coach, won 10 games and seen disappointing results when it comes to the development of young players, the Knicks are open to trading just about any player on the team, and rightfully so. There’s little to build on with this roster.
The only untouchables are rookie R.J. Barrett and big man Mitchell Robinson, though the team has not given up on second-year forward Kevin Knox.
While the team’s slate of veterans with one-year contracts has gobbled up the bulk of the discussion around the Knicks as we approach the trade deadline—Bobby Portis, Marcus Morris, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington—the team is also open to a deal involving point guard Dennis Smith Jr. Minnesota and Detroit are among the teams that have expressed some interest in Smith, according to league sources.
The Knicks are in a bind when it comes to trading Smith, because he’s had a disastrous and injury-riddled season, with averages of 5.2 points and 2.7 assists in 21 games. Smith has shot just 32.5 percent from the floor and 29.3 percent from the 3-point line. If New York moves him ahead of the deadline, it will be selling low.
Dennis Smith Jr.’s Underwhelming Knicks Numbers
Smith averaged 14.7 points with the Knicks in 21 games last year after coming over in the trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to Dallas. He had been improving his 3-point shot each season he spent in Dallas, going from 31.3 percent as a rookie to 32.2 percent in his second year. He was at 34.4 percent last season with the Mavs before the trade.
In a season-and-a-half with Dallas, Smith averaged 14.5 points and 4.9 assists. He’s dropped off considerably in the blue-and-orange.
Smith has played 42 games with the Knicks and is shooting just 29.0 percent from the 3-point line in those games. He’s also seen a drop-off from other spots on the floor. Smith is an explosive driver with good speed and strength, but his ability to finish has fallen off—he is making just 47.4 percent of his shots in the restricted area.
Knicks’ Long-Term Plan: Overhaul at Point Guard
The Knicks’ plan going forward, sources said, is to wipe clean the slate at point guard and start over in the offseason. The draft is well-stocked with point guards and if the Knicks aren’t sold on the likes of James Wiseman or Anthony Edwards, they figure to have a slew of point guards to choose from: LaMelo Ball, Cole Anthony, Theo Maledon, Nico Mannion.
New York also could make a run at Raptors free-agent point guard Fred VanVleet, who has been on the team’s radar as well. The Knicks have cap space available next summer but the free-agent class is lacking in star power.
Cleaning out the point-guard position entirely means the team will also be trying to find a new home for Frank Ntilikina, the team’s top draft pick in 2017. Ntilikina has been the subject of trade rumors for nearly a year now and has been moved to the bench for eight of the past nine games.
The Knicks have the league’s second-worst guards when it comes to production. They get 38.9 points per game from their guards, which is 29th in the NBA. Knicks guards shoot 39.6 percent from the field (28th) and 32.3 percent from the 3-point line (29th).
It’s probably not a bad idea to start over in the backcourt.