Yesterday, the Knicks signed former New Orleans Pelicans big man Jason Smith to a one-year, $3.3 million contract using their taxpayer mid-level exception. Smith has long been a useful player, but has battled injuries throughout his career. A knee injury wiped out his 2008-2009 season entirely and he’s played just 122 games over the past three seasons.
Having said that, given the wages some folks are netting, he’s worth taking a flyer on for a year at that price. At the very least, Smith is going to play decent defense and help to protect the rim. The Knicks fatal flaw last season was their inability to stop opposing teams, and he should help there. Offensively, his good mid-range jumper should make him a workable fit in the Triangle Offense.
If I was coaching–and I’m not, obviously–Smith would be the guy I play next to Stoudemire. Unlike Bargnani, Stoudemire does serve a purpose in the Triangle. He’s the only Knick besides Carmelo who can consistently get you a basket in the low-post. But he’s so bad defensively that he needs to play alongside a center who can compensate for at least some of his deficiencies.
Enter Smith. He isn’t amazing on defense, but he’s solid enough. And he’s an okay enough defensive rebounder to where teams wouldn’t consistently be getting put-backs on account of Stoudemire’s lapses. Offensively, I really like the fit with them playing together. One of the hallmarks of the Triangle is how it creates high percentage looks off double-teams. For all his faults, Stoudemire is a strong post player who will probably draw an extra defender in certain situations.
Assuming he’s willing to pass out of it —and after last season, that might be a big assumption–Smith fits in nicely as his front court mate who can hit mid-range jumpers off the catch at a relatively high percentage. Of course, it’d be more useful to have a big who would be able to space out at the three point line, but that isn’t the kind of offense the Knicks are going to be running.
Smith should compete for a rotation spot right away. Because the Knicks will be using an offense that historically has featured two big men, there may be minutes for Smith at power forward. His aforementioned mid-range prowess will allow him to play with guys like Cole Aldrich or Sam Dalembert and still maintain workable spacing on offense. His versatility to play both spots probably alleviates any need for Andrea Bargnani to step on the court.
Phil Jackson’s offseason has been a good one, I’d say. His hands have been tied in terms of what he can do, but he’s still found ways to add pieces that fit the scheme he wants Derek Fisher to implement. Smith definitely works in that regard and having him on a one-year deal protects the Knicks in the event that he gets injured again.
There has been speculation about the Knicks maybe pursuing Shawn Marion, but with Cleanthony Early playing well in summer league and poised to grab a rotation spot, it probably makes more sense to shore up the front court. They could’ve done a lot worse with the taxpayer mid-level than Smith. He’s a useful two-way player, which is exactly what the Knicks need right now.
Competency. This is weird. Going to take a while to get used to it, amirite?