The New York Knicks are expected to be among the sellers this trade season, and seem willing to part with any player other than rookie R.J. Barrett to get better for the future. As we’ve seen, signing veterans to short-term contracts last offseason didn’t create the Eastern Conference dynamo the front office was hoping for.
One player who the Knicks are apparently ready to move is Dennis Smith Jr., the third-year point guard who hasn’t really found his footing in New York. Smith arrived last year as part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade and had a bit of buzz as the point guard the Knicks could have had if they hadn’t drafted Frank Ntilikina in 2017. Nevertheless, some flashy scoring outputs didn’t obscure Smith’s shooting woes (he put up 41/29/57 splits as a Knick last year), and then-head coach David Fizdale barely played Smith the final month of the season.
Smith’s 2019-20 season has started off even worse, yet New York still believes there is a market for the 22-year-old guard. According to Ian Begley of SNY, it’s not just one suitor, either. Begley reports that “several teams, including the Minnesota Timberwolves, are interested in trading for Dennis Smith Jr., per SNY sources.”
The Knicks should absolutely be trying to create a bidding war for Smith, given that his game has serious flaws and they already have multiple other ball handlers like Barrett and Elfrid Payton to play out the string this season. But Smith’s career has been one in which he’s never really shown the ability to consistently stick in a rotation. Plus it’s odd that Minnesota, which has decided to eschew a point guard altogether in the starting lineup, would expend resources to pair another non-shooter with Karl-Anthony Towns.
Then there’s the matter of the other “several teams” who apparently have interest in acquiring Smith. He is theoretically young enough to be worthy of another look, and the fact that he was a lottery pick means general managers will always keep an eye on him, but which young, subpar teams realistically need a point guard? The Hawks, Hornets, and Grizzlies are set. Even perennially Orlando has Markelle Fultz, making it difficult to determine what Smith’s market really is.
Smith has had a rough turn over the last year, landing on a Knicks team that has been in a near-perpetual state of turmoil and then having to suffer through a personal tragedy to start this season. His career likely has several, better chapters left, but given the player he is now, there are questions about what a trade market could look like for him.