When the Knicks front office decided to make the franchise altering move of trading Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, the sought three key components before pulling the trigger on the deal. The Knicks wanted immediate cap relief, multiple draft picks, and a player on a rookie scale contract that can has the potential to have a future impact.
The trade has already been successful as the Knicks were able to shed both Tim Hardaway Jr and Courtney Lee’s contract which frees up $74.6 million in cap space and they were able to acquire two future first round picks.
The real key to the trade is the development of second year guard Dennis Smith Jr.
Smith Jr. and the Knicks have been linked since the 2017 draft when the Knicks decided to draft Frank Ntilikina one spot ahead of Smith Jr. Most Knicks fans and media outlets prefered the Knicks had taken Smith Jr. at the time.
Nevertheless, Smith Jr. ended up in a Knicks uniform and immediately became the most talented point guard the Knicks have had on the roster since Stephon Marbury.
The first seven games in a Knicks uniform has been up and down to say the least which is to be expected of a young guard traded to a new team and learning how to play with new teammates for the first time.
Smith Jr. is averaging 17.0 points, 6.0 assists, 2.7 rebounds, and 1.7 steals per game since the trade. He’s shooting 42.7% from the field, 26.9% from three, and 54.5% from the free throw line.
His offensive rating in a Knicks uniform is a dismal 92.6 with a defensive rating of 104.8. The net rating of -12.2 still standouts regardless of how bad the Knicks have been playing and how talent deprived they are.
Seven games is certainly not a large enough sample size to give a fair judgement on Smith Jr. given all that’s happened. Smith Jr has shown flashes were he looks unstoppable blowing past his defender and finishing at the rim but has also had moments where he doesn’t impact the game or gets to the free throw line and clanks a few free throws.
The tools, athleticism, court vision and the ability to score have all been present for Smith Jr. In back to back games against the Pistons, Smith Jr scored 25 and 31 points. Most notable is that Smith Jr has had five or more assists in six of his first seven games.
The potential is there for him to truly breakout as the Knicks come out of the All Star break. David Fizdale wants the Knicks to push the ball more and play at a faster pace but right now Smith Jr. is actually playing at a slower pace than he was with the Mavericks.
That’ll certainly be an adjustment for the better once Smith Jr. gets more comfortable with the new offense and new teammates.
Smith Jr. plays a little out of control at times and forces up some bad shot selections but has the potential to be a key asset for the Knicks moving forward.
The remaining 24 games will be important for Smith Jr and his future role with the Knicks going forward. If he shows growth and progression, maybe the Knicks don’t go after a star free agent point guard or draft Ja Morant if the Zion Williamson sweepstakes don’t go there way.
It’ll be fun to watch how he progresses and if he can earn his spot with his play heading into the offseason.
Smith Jr. is far from a finished product but has the talent to develop his potential into something special. Time will tell going forward.