An important thing to understand about the New York Knicks and JR Smith this off-season is that he is getting their 4.9 million Early Bird exception or nobody is. The money cannot be allocated elsewhere. There isn’t a “let JR walk and put that 4.9 million elsewhere” option. Considering Smith was second on the team in scoring, third in rebounding, fourth in assists and played in 80 games this year…his production wouldn’t be easily replaced anyway. There is an inevitable necessity for JR Smith to stay in New York.
Smith averaged 18.1 points per game on 42% shooting with 5.3 rebounds per game. Where are you going to find production like that at shooting guard? Look around the NBA. Smith is a borderline top ten shooting guard right now. He is erratic and inconsistent with a poor track record in the playoffs, highlighted by a miserable showing this year. Yet, the Knicks aren’t finding a better 2-Guard this off-season. They need JR’s production to help get them back into the playoffs and then need to hope Iman Shumpert and other role players can help lessen the scoring burden on him.
The Knicks are bringing Smith back, it is generally a foregone conclusion at this point. Even with his ugly May, it is still the right decision considering the team’s salary cap situation and their Early Bird exception. The team won’t improve by letting him walk. Hopefully, Mike Woodson can coax another strong season out of him and build a rotation that can afford to hold him more accountable for his bouts of erratic play. Smith can be infuriating to watch at times but this is who the Knicks are for the foreseeable future. If they are going to have any kind of success, Smith is going to be a key cog in the equation.
So prepare yourself for another season of angrily yelling at your TV screen and seeing Mike Woodson make plenty of these faces…