Back in mid-January, we heard that there was reportedly no market for J.R. Smith. The 28-year-old guard was reportedly being shopped around the league at the time as the Knicks had grown increasingly frustrated with his on-and-off the court transgressions. Smith’s first five games of the new year proved to be forgettable while he dealt with criticism, as he averaged just 5.1 PPG on 31% shooting and received a DNP-CD during a 102-92 win against the Heat at Madison Square Garden. His season appeared to reach a low point that night, as Smith told the press during the postgame that he was unsure of his future with the Knicks.
Fortunately, Smith was able to move past those incidents and finish the rest of the season on a strong note, and his scoring averages increased every month from then on. He averaged 12.9 PPG while shooting .431 from the field and .391 from three in January, 14.6/.417/.397 in February, 15.5 PPG/.451/.402 in March, and 23.4/.496/.463 in April. More importantly, Smith delivered standout performances as the Knicks went 16-7 over the final 23 games, falling just two wins short of earning the eighth seed.
Though Smith’s behavioral issues this season might be cause for concern, his former coach George Karl said back in January that the 6’6 guard has a “skill that championships need” and implied that a team with a stronger locker room would make a big difference. Karl specifically mentioned San Antonio as an ideal situation:
“I would be looking at a culture where there would be more peer pressure…I know San Antonio has always liked (J.R.) and I know they’ve thought about bringing him in…San Antonio doesn’t make a lot of mistakes.”
The nine-year veteran is on the books for about $5.98MM next season and has a player option worth nearly $6.4MM for 2015/16. Last month, a report from Frank Isola of the New York Daily News suggested that the team will look to trade him this summer. There’s certainly the possibility that Smith will be on the opening night roster this November, but considering his play over the final months of the season, will the Knicks be able to successfully trade J.R. Smith this summer?