The New York Knicks are exploring the possibilities of trading veteran shooting guard J.R Smith, and the Oklahoma City Thunder appear a good landing spot for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year.
Smith, who averaged 11.3 points, 3.0 assists and 4.5 rebounds in 32 minutes per game this season, could find himself wearing a new jersey before the February 20 trade deadline.
According to ESPN's Ian Begley and Marc Stein, the Knicks have begun testing the trade market for Smith, though both NBA insiders believed it would be a huge task for the Knickerbockers to trade the mercurial swingman because of his lucrative contract.
"Story going online now from @IanBegley & I: ESPN sources say Knicks, challenging as it sounds, have begun exploring J.R. Smith trade options," Marc Stein posted on his Twitter account.
Smith's shoelace stunt on Dallas Mavericks forward Shawn Marion, which by the way costs 50,000 in fines, apparently triggered the Knicks to put him on the trading block.
After an outstanding 2012-2013 season, Smith has been playing way below expectations. He is just shooting 34.8 percent from the field and 33.9 percent from the three-point line. Aside from his poor shot selection, his demeanor on and off the field often caused distraction to the Knicks locker room.
"It's a little surprising it took the Knicks this long to get frustrated with J.R. Smith, who has been a constant source of both distraction and poor play since signing an extension with the team during the offseason," via Bleacher Report.
Many basketball followers believed it would be hard for the Knicks to find a trade partner for Smith not only because of his remaining three-year, $18 million but also his diminishing ability to score buckets consistently.
"Due to the nature of his contract, Smith cannot be traded prior to January 15. The Knicks, furthermore, privately acknowledge that it will be difficult in the current climate to trade Smith, who has two seasons left after this one on a three-year, $18 million contract," the ESPN insiders stated.
Thundering Sixth Man
The Oklahoma City Thunder could be an ideal trade destination for Smith, who is a proven scorer when motivated - especially if he's playing for a contender.
Last season, Smith averaged 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds on his way to a Sixth Man of the Year crown. Coincidentally, the Knicks were also winning a lot of ballgames last year, and the play of Smith undoubtedly helped them achieve supremacy in the Eastern Conference.
Smith could be a valuable scorer off the bench for any contender, and the Thunder, which lost dynamic bench scorers in James Harden and Kevin Martin, could benefit from a potential trade with the Knicks.
"After losing James Harden in 2012 and now Kevin Martin, the Oklahoma City Thunder could use some scoring at shooting guard. While Smith isn't as efficient, the asking price makes it a fair compromise."
"In return, the Knicks could ask for Thabo Sefolosha, Nick Collison and a draft pick, giving them another defensive specialist and an experienced center behind Tyson Chandler while also helping to replenish the stock of picks they've given up over the years," via Bleacher Report.
If the Thunder holds on Sefolosha, they can also have an option of trading away prospect Jeremy Lamb to hammer the deal.
For more NBA Trade rumors, read more at IBT Sports.