Knicks trade rumors: Dennis Smith Jr.’s potential departure offers clarity

The New York Knicks’ Dennis Smith Jr. reportedly prefers a trade from the team. What’s next?

Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, Dennis Smith Jr. “prefers a move” from the New York Knicks. It follows Ian Begley of SNY’s report of the third-year point guard drawing interest around the NBA, including from the Minnesota Timberwolves.

These reports accompany Smith Jr.’s rough season with the Knicks, featuring 5.2 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists on just 32.5 percent shooting. A few absences via coach’s decision were sprinkled in earlier this month, after interim coach Mike Miller took over for David Fizdale.

Smith Jr. isn’t even one year into his tenure with the Knicks, who acquired him in the January trade for Kristaps Porzingis. This is also the lone remaining player from the deal, as Wesley Matthews and DeAndre Jordan moved on to other teams. Dallas still owes two first-round picks to New York, but they will not convey until 2021 and 2023, respectively. Who knows where this team sits by then.

A potential move will mean three teams in three seasons for Smith Jr. He struggled to gain any ground with the Mavericks, who found Luka Doncic in the 2018 NBA Draft and moved him to point guard. Changing locations seemed to help the North Carolina State product initially, as he scored 25 and 31 points in his second and third games as a Knick, respectively, and put himself in the organization’s plans. His 2020-21 team option was even exercised.

With one more year of control, at age 23 for 2020-21, perhaps that entices other teams enough to move draft compensation. A first-round pick would be ideal to recoup some value from the now-poor Porzingis trade, but Smith Jr.’s play hasn’t warranted that. One or two future second-round picks could make more sense.

If these are Smith Jr.’s final games with the Knicks, given the trade deadline is just six weeks away, point guard will belong to Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina for the rest of the season. Both have offered defensive prowess, with Payton recently adding two games of double-digit assist totals. Smith Jr. is the third-stringer, and the imminent returns of Reggie Bullock and Wayne Ellington from injury only clog the backcourt minutes. Playing time will be difficult to come by.

A parting of ways is probably for the best for both sides. Smith Jr. can try to reboot his career elsewhere, and the New York Knicks can clear space at a crowded position. It offers clarity for everyone, even though a success story with a young player, at a long troublesome position, would have been ideal.