The NBA’s trading season unofficially opened on Sunday, because Dec. 15 marked the first day that the majority of players who signed new contracts over the summer are eligible to be included in trades to other teams.
But a select few players aren’t yet eligible.
The collective bargaining agreement has various restrictions in place for teams over the salary cap, and one of the more likely clubs to want to engage in trade talks can’t yet deal one of its more disappointing players this season.
Under a quirk in the new collective bargaining agreement, J.R. Smith is eligible to be traded Jan. 15 and the way things are going, the Knicks would have to explore it.
Smith is one of seven free agents signed in July who won’t become trade eligible for another month because their teams are over the salary cap and they signed for 120 percent more than their prior season’s salary.
The Knicks have been working on a deal for the raptors’ Kyle Lowry, but Smith wasn’t part of those negotiations. The sticking point there is the inclusion of a young player like Tim Hardaway Jr. or Iman Shumpert, and/or a first round draft pick that New York has been reluctant to give up to this point in the talks.
Smith is underperforming after winning the league’s Sixth Man of the Year award a season ago, averaging eight less points per game and shooting almost nine percentage points worse from the field. He also chose to have offseason surgery only after he secured his three-year, $18 million free agent contract, and followed that up by being suspended five games for violating the league’s drug policy.
Add all that to Smith’s recent reported blowup with head coach Mike Woodson, and you’d understand why the Knicks might consider trading him. But that can’t happen until Jan. 15.