The NBA season is just underway, but that doesn’t mean teams are waiting to discuss potential trades. One such trade possibility already being mentioned is between the New York Knicks and Indiana Pacers.
According to the New York Daily News, the Knicks and Pacers have discussed a J.R. Smith-Chris Copeland swap.
While any kind of talks may only be in the preliminary stages, this trade would make all kinds of sense for New York. They would ship out a player who has given them problems on and off the court in the past, and that has an option for next season in exchange for a player that has an expiring contract at the end of this season. The Knicks surely want to clear as much cap space as they can to find complementary players for Carmelo Anthony, and while small forward isn’t exactly a position of need with Anthony there, they can simply let Copeland walk at the end of this season to save his salary. Also, as CBS Sports notes, Smith has talked about his struggles in playing in Phil Jackson’s triangle offense. Realistically, he’s not a great fit.
Conversely, it’s difficult to fathom why Indiana would consider this deal – especially in any pure 1-1 swap.
While the Daily News article mentions Indiana is hurting for perimeter scoring, Smith is hardly a great option. The veteran is as streaky as they come and with career shooting percentages of only 42.4 percent from the floor and 37 percent from three-point range, Smith isn’t all that efficient of a scorer on a regular basis. He’s also off to a poor start this season, connecting on only 22 percent of his three-point attempts and shooting under 40 percent from the field.
Smith also brings along all kinds of baggage. He’s repeatedly been the subject of controversy and it didn’t take him long to find it again this year. The NBA announced a one-game suspension for the guard on Wednesday after he struck Glen Rice, Jr. in the groin in a game on Tuesday. In the past two years alone, as noted by ESPN, Smith has violated the NBA’s anti-drug policy, been fined for offensive tweets, and been fined for flopping, among other issues. Oh yeah, then there was his classic interaction with some random fan on Twitter.
Just as importantly, Copeland is a decent player minus the headaches. With Paul George on the shelf due to injury, Indiana has relied on him quite a bit this season and he’s responded fairly well. Through the team’s first four games, Copeland has averaged 16.8 points per game to lead the team in scoring, playing 29 minutes per game. In addition, at 16.12, his PER is nearly double Smith’s 8.82. Copeland isn’t a star and his 39 percent shooting is a good example of that. He is, however, making the most of his minutes and heavily contributing to the team.
Finally, Smith holds a player option for a $6.4 million salary next season. That’s not an amount that will break the bank but it would eat into the Pacers’ cap space for next season if he doesn’t opt out. Perhaps Smith plays well this season, enjoys Indiana, and opts in with that reasonable salary to help Paul George and company try to reach the Finals next year. Still, it’s a gamble – a sizable one considering the chemistry issues Smith can cause.
In a nutshell, is this a headache Indy really wants?