New York Knicks: The Dennis Smith Jr. Dilemma

What is Dennis Smith Jr.’s future with the New York Knicks?


Dennis Smith Jr. is entering his third (2.5?) season with the New York Knicks. He’s been a player of almost as much controversy amongst Knicks fans as Frank Ntilikina. Smith had a promising first 21 games in New York after the infamous Kristaps Porzingis trade,  averaging 14.7 points, 5.4 assists, and 2.9 rebounds. Unfortunately, during this past season his production fell off a cliff, dropping his numbers across the board in producing the worst season of his career.

Smith Jr.’s 2019-20 season went wrong for a myriad of reasons. He lost his stepmom early in the year and missed time to grieve. He also started the season injured after what appeared to be a promising summer of training. Oh yeah, and that David Fizdale guy was his coach for a while.

At this point, it’s understandable if you don’t believe in the young guard, but he was an All-Rookie 2nd team player who has shown flashes of being a Russell Westbrook style athlete.

I don’t think Smith Jr. will ever become a star in the NBA. A starter? That’s possible, and I also think there is a way he can hone his craft and still be a serviceable player. Tom Thibodeau said he had big plans for him, so maybe this is the season we can see what DSJ can be when properly coached. Below we’re going to dive into what this next season can bring and see what we think ends up happening to him in his Knicks tenure.

Developing into a starter

It wasn’t too long ago that Dennis Smith Jr. was regarded as a blue chip prospect that the Knicks were idiots for not drafting, remember Lebron? In all honesty at the time of that quote, he had a very valid point. DSJ had stats of 15.2 ppg, 5.2 apg, and 3.8 rbs while starting all 69 games he played during his rookie campaign. He had the look of becoming an up-and-coming star in the league. He was an uber athletic guard who appeared to have good vision and a knack for playmaking.

Before this season he actually started 119 of his first 122 games. If anything, it appears that 2019-20 has been the biggest fluke of the type of player he should be. Is that true? That’s to be determined, but it shows he was capable of being a starting PG in this league earlier in his career. At age 22, there is still time for him to turn around his play and possibly work himself into as above average NBA player.

Dennis Smith seems like the perfect type of player that has been hampered by the Knicks development staff and could prosper if traded or signed onto a team that is a better fit (look at Timmy Hardaway on Dallas). While I personally don’t think Smith’s future on the Knicks is as a starter, I do think he has a role on this team that could help him thrive.

Becoming a 6th Man

If you asked a random NBA fan who was the Knick’s starting point guard last year, besides them telling you they didn’t care, the answer would be Elfrid Payton. I’m willing to bet that answer is going to be different at the start of next season.

Whether it be Frank the Tank, DSJ, CP3, or a free agent, I think it’s almost guaranteed the team moves on from Payton. While some fans might be yelling for Frank to start, he truly hasn’t showed enough to be declared an NBA starting guard.

DSJ may have had a success to start his career as a starter, but last season he seemed lost. He was one of the worst guards in the league and almost always looked like the worst player on the court over-dribbling and bricking shots left and right. However, his scoring prowess is still evident and his style of play seems to be better suited as a spark-plug scorer off the bench (RIP Trier).

Smith should look at other players around the league who have had to do something similar with their careers as a path to getting NBA minutes. Players like Jordan Clarkson, Lou Williams, DJ Augustin, and Dennis Schroeder have all been starters and they have all thrived coming off the bench at one point in their careers. I think with Dennis’ play-style, this is the route to go and see if he can play himself into becoming a starter.

Should the Knicks just trade Dennis Smith Jr.?

Ahhhh, here we are. I think it’s probably a given that most of the fanbase wouldn’t be too upset cutting ties with DSJ if the team could get back something of value in return. However, his stock right now is lower than it’s ever been in his career. Since being acquire as part of the Porzingis trade, he will be by extension tied to that trade for the rest of his Knicks career, and if he was to be given up for nothing, it would just further the comedy show that is our beloved NYK.

What is the most likely outcome for Dennis Smith Jr. next season? After a twitter poll, it appears most fans thing he will be traded by the end of next season.

Next: 1 FA target from every Northwest team

This is understandable as his career in New York has been very underwhelming to this point. I still think he has a place with this team and can at least turn himself into an average NBA player that can thrive coming off the bench. But we will have to wait to see.