After a rough 2019-20 campaign that has seen him lose significant playing time following a promising first two seasons, New York Knicks point guard Dennis Smith Jr. might be headed elsewhere in the coming offseason, a new report suggests.
In a story published late last week, Marc Berman of the New York Post wrote that the Knicks' recent change in management could spell the end of Smith's troubled stint in New York, as trading the 22-year-old will likely "be an option" in the 2020 offseason. While no specific trade packages were mentioned, Berman noted that the Orlando Magic may be among the former North Carolina State star's potential destinations.
The Minnesota Timberwolves were mentioned as a team that reportedly showed interest in Smith before the February 6 trade deadline, though their pre-deadline acquisitions of D'Angelo Russell and Malik Beasley have since satisfied their need for help at the point guard position.
"Some NBA sources believe Smith, with his age and seemingly unlucky journey in New York, could be a good risk in 'the second draft,'" Berman pointed out. "That is first-round picks still on their rookie contracts who need a change of scenery."
Per his Basketball-Reference page, Smith posted averages of 5.5 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 2.9 assists, shooting just 34.1 percent from the field and 29.6 percent from beyond the arc in 34 games before the NBA went on hiatus last month. At that point, he was mostly used as a third-stringer, playing behind fellow point guards Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina for most of the currently suspended season.
The aforementioned numbers pale in comparison to the ones Smith posted in the 2017-18 and 2018-19 campaigns, and as Berman explained, various injuries and personal issues have contributed to the young playmaker's struggles.Although it was noted that Smith was seemingly favored by former Knicks president Steve Mills as a key acquisition in the early-2019 trade that sent Kristaps Porzingis to the Dallas Mavericks, Berman added that new team president Leon Rose has "no political attachment" to the former No. 9 overall draft pick, thus increasing the likelihood he may get a fresh start elsewhere. However, the New York Post writer also quoted an unnamed Western Conference "personnel man," who suggested that Smith's game has a few red flags that might compromise his value in the offseason.
"He's supremely athletic and can be a gifted scorer as an attack-style ballhandler," the official reportedly said. "But he's an average shooter and non-passer. And doesn't have a clue how to make others better. Plus he's an indifferent defender, meaning when the mood strikes him.''
On the other hand, Berman quoted an anonymous NBA scout who acknowledged the weaknesses in Smith's game but also suggested that he needs a coach who could recognize his potential and show him some "love."