New York Knicks: Evaluating the progress of Dennis Smith Jr.

Dennis Smith, Jr. New York Knicks (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Dennis Smith, Jr. New York Knicks (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

As the 2019-2020 NBA season draws near, the New York Knicks will be looking for more stability from dynamic point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

One of the biggest questions about the New York Knicks revolves around Dennis Smith Jr. and precisely what they have in him. Is he a potential all-star with crazy athleticism? Is he a solid starter, a sixth man or just a guy who can dunk? Depending on what lens you’re looking through he is all and none of these things…and that’s the problem. The overall player seems to be less than the sum of his parts.

The first notion you have to move on from is him being an all-star. He has barely shot 40% from the field and 30% from 3s. His career assists to turnover ratio also haven’t even hit 2 to 1. These are not the numbers of an all-star. They are not yet at a Nate Robinson level. Understanding it’s only season two of his career,  but the improvement needed in all aspects of his game to reach star level is unlikely to be attainable.

Then there is his lackluster defense, poor shot selection, and the issues around his behavior in Dallas. These are more will than skill issues, and he hasn’t shown much of a desire to improve them. His shooting issues are not the result of poor form that can be coached but more from a desire to take bad shots. You cant break 45% shooting if your heaving up prayers with defenders in your face half the time.

He has the size, and athletic ability to, at the very least, be an annoying defender. He may not have the length of Frank Ntilikina or the savvy of a Danny Green, but his lack of effort makes his talent shortcomings so much more glaring. You would expect to have seen some improvement in year two if Smith was making an effort.

Smith complained in Dallas about having to play with Luka Doncic and felt the Mavs were supposed to be his team. Doncic is one of the best rookies to come into the league in years, and moving the ball is a considerable part of his game. The fact Smith couldn’t coexist with a pass-first, high basketball IQ teammate says a lot about him. He left the team for a short time before the trade over the issue. This would have to concern any organization.

So what is the most likely outcome for Smith? How he assimilates his game with RJ BarrettJulius Randle and Mitchell Robinson will tell the tale this year. Will he make some adjustments to his shot selection, move the ball more, and make an effort to be a distributor as well as a scorer? Or will he continue down the selfish volume scorer path he’s been heading down his whole career?

The best version of Smith is probably something similar to Dennis Schroeder. A third or fourth guard who can bring some offense of the bench. He may do it with more style and bigger dunks, but the overall contribution would be similar.

Next. The New York Knicks are in better shape than the Lakers. dark

The most likely comp, however, is Dion Waiters. Waiters’ numbers are eerily similar, and he has the same glaring deficiencies in his game as DSJ.  This is a make or break season for Smith, and Knicks fans shouldn’t hold their breath on a leap forward.