JR Smith seems to be joining the New York Knicks. The rumor was out there all yesterday, and there's still no formal confirmation other than Smith's own tweet of "The Knicks it is!", but it seems JR Smith has chosen to play for the Knicks rather than the Los Angeles Clippers. Here's the ESPN link. It seems the choice came down to money:The Knicks had their mini-midlevel exception, the Clippers didn't. Both teams seem to be on the upswing, Smith, should he perform well, will get national attention playing Madison Square Garden. The Knicks also apparently gave Smith a second year player option.
I've never been a JR Smith fan and originally thought he wasn't a great fit for the Clipper team... but then Chauncey Billups went out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon and everything changed. The Clippers, once thick with backcourt players (although all smaller and less offensively gifted than Smith), were suddenly thin at the two guard. Billups primary replacement, Randy Foye, has proven inconsistent. Eric Bledsoe, the second-year player is small for a two guard and is coming off a knee injury. In limited minutes this year, he's seemed completely overwhelmed.
But, it's not as though Smith was a perfect fit. The Clippers primary need is a wing defender. While Smith has the size, he's never been known for a willingness to play defense. In seven years with Denver, his primary role was as an off-the-bench scorer. With Mo Williams already playing that role rather nicely for the Clips, there's some doubt about how much Smith would have helped.
So, where does Clippers GM, Neil Olshey go now? Hard to say. The NBA trading deadline is March 15, still a month away. He's got some end-of-the-bench trade pieces, a couple of expiring contracts, and some trade exceptions to work with... not a whole lot.
On a more positive note, the Clippers did recently bring in another former Nugget in Kenyon Martin. And, to my eyes, Martin has helped the Clippers defense quite a bit. His numbers from the Chinese league were lackluster and we didn't know what we'd be getting but he's been terrific, athletic, heady, and spry. He's given the Clippers frontcourt great depth and flexibility and, along with Reggie Evans and Mo Williams, has turned the Clipper's bench into something coach Vinny Del Negro can rely on, rather than fear.
Has he given the Clippers enough depth that they no longer need that elusive wing defender?