Although the Knicks defeated the Heat in what was arguably their most impressive win of the season, the bigger story out of New York right now seems to be head coach Mike Woodson‘s decision to completely bench J.R. Smith tonight. Smith, who thrived under Woodson’s guidance last season en route to winning the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award, reportedly kept his distance from the team throughout tonight’s game and told the media afterward that he wasn’t sure if he’s in the Knicks future anymore:
According to Marc Berman and Fred Kerber of the New York Post, Smith’s value has hit a new low, and the team would consider trading him for a young player or draft pick. With that being said, it’s hard to imagine that another team would offer up a viable young prospect or an asset in the form of a draft choice in exchange for someone with little trade value right now, especially with Smith scheduled to make $5.98MM next season along with a $6.4MM player option in 2015/16. As we noted earlier from ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Knicks have been making an effort to shop Smith around the league but have been hard pressed to find a taker.
Though a trade may seem improbable based on Smith’s contract, it certainly wouldn’t seem impossible, as the Raptors were initially willing to take on Raymond Felton (whose contract includes a near $4MM player option for 2015/16) in exchange for Kyle Lowry, contingent upon the inclusion of a future first-round pick and/or a young talent like Iman Shumpert or Tim Hardaway Jr. This isn’t to say that New York would hastily include any of the latter in order to rid themselves of Smith, but should trade rumors surrounding the 6’6″ guard start to percolate leading up to the trade deadline, I would expect the inclusion on whatever young talent/assets the team has left as a prerequisite for taking on J.R.’s contract.