Dennis Smith Jr.
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Second chance after second chance, the New York Knicks need to pull the plug on the Dennis Smith Jr. experiment.

Josh Benjamin

The New York Knicks and Dennis Smith Jr. aren’t doing each other any favors. The short honeymoon was fun while it lasted. Smith arrived from the Dallas Mavericks in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, but never materialized into a star point guard in New York.

Instead, the exact opposite happened. Smith has regressed this year to the point of entering “draft bust” territory.

With the NBA trade deadline looming, one would imagine the Knicks would be doing everything in their power to trade Smith. After all, Shams Charania of The Athletic reported last month that rival teams believe Smith wants out of New York.

The issue is that Smith’s down year has tanked his trade value and it’s unlikely that the Knicks will be able to get a serious haul in return. If they could even get a second-round pick, it would be miraculous.

The Knicks shouldn’t waste any more time or energy looking for a deal. It’s about time they just move on from DSJ.

It’s hard to fix bad

To be fair, Dennis Smith Jr.’s poor performance in 2019-20 isn’t all his fault. The Knicks’ offense was limited under former coach David Fizdale, and Smith has dealt with injuries and personal tragedy all season.

Even so, it’s shocking to see the 22-year-old’s numbers take such a nosedive. He’s posting just 5.0 points per game after averaging 14.5 per contest over his first two seasons. Smith is also shooting an atrocious 32% from the field and a paltry 29.3% from long range.

As a result, Smith has been an absolute liability on offense. His offensive box plus/minus is -5.3. He isn’t much better on defense, posting a defensive box plus/minus of -1.3.

Combine that with the fact the former North Carolina State star has played in just 22 games this season, and it’s a recipe for a player without value. Even when Smith’s healthy enough to play, he’s still only playing 15.5 minutes.

This is a man who was picked ninth overall in the 2017 NBA Draft. Now, he’s barely good enough to be the last guy off the bench.

The Knicks need to do something about Dennis Smith Jr. and fast.

Release over trade?

Team president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry can try and trade Smith until they’re blue in the face. Unfortunately, his sheer inability to find a rhythm this season means he won’t be on the radar for contenders.

If the Knicks can’t find a suitor, should they consider releasing the young point guard? In short, no. It’s not the smartest decision financially, it’s actually downright boneheaded. The Knicks already picked up Smith’s fourth-year option for next season, at $5.6 million. That would be quite the cap hit going into free agency.

Still, what can the Knicks acquire in any Smith trade? They could swap a bad player for another bad player. If they attach a draft pick, maybe a heavy contract like Kevin Love’s can be acquired.

Unfortunately, as Ian Begley of SNY reported, New York is “opposed” to trading any draft picks. This leaves management only two choices.

They can either trade Smith while his value is at a low point or they can hold onto him for the rest of the season with hopes of finding a suitor over the summer.

Final thoughts

All in all, both the Knicks and Smith have to know what’s coming. Both parties are going to part ways sooner or later. When all’s said and done, the team will have told Dennis Smith Jr., “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Right now, however, it’s just a matter of which side pulls the trigger first. Marc Berman of the New York Post reported last month that Smith liked being a Knick, but he didn’t exactly commit to the team either. He’s clearly frustrated and things aren’t getting any better.

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