With the Carmelo Anthony rumors flying we are about to see the rest of the franchise get caught up in the drama. Chris Tomasson at Fanhouse is reporting J.R. Smith is on the trading block. The truth is with Carmelo’s status up in the air so to speak there is no player on the Nuggets roster who is safe from trade rumors and speculation. As far as Smith is concerned, J.R. was a Mark Warkentien favorite and with Wark out of town there may not be anyone left to continue to preach patience and tolerance with J.R.
The Nuggets have put up with a great deal from J.R. over the years both on the court and off. As a player there is nothing J.R. cannot do offensively (see video below), unfortunately he rarely chooses to do the truly helpful things and George Karl has famously referred to Smith as a good bad player. Despite the frustrations J.R. subjects Karl and the rest of the Nuggets players, management and fans to I have been one of J.R.’s greatest supporters due to the lure of his immense talents, untapped though most of those talents may be.
Should the Nuggets chose to seek a trade for J.R. before the season starts it would be the classic sell low transaction. There have been teams interested in J.R. in the past, including the clean cut San Antonio Spurs and the Miami Heat prior to the arrival of LeBron and Bosh, and there will be teams interested in him in the future. With J.R. coming off his worst statistical season as a Nugget (do not let his career high 15.4 points per game fool you) and entering a contract season I would let him get a couple months worth of games under his belt in an attempt to rebuild his value.
When the Nuggets (smartly) signed J.R. to a three year contract they did so specifically to give themselves an easy out. When Smith was a restricted free agent in 2008 he had shown signs of becoming more mature, but still had a long way to go. By making a three year commitment they put themselves in position to cut the cord if Smith did not continue to make acceptable strides.
At this point J.R.’s talent is as great as ever, but he has yet to grow his all around game to the point where it should be. Any commentary of J.R.’s maturity and progress must begin by reminding everyone he is only 24. Even so 2010-11 will be his seventh season in the NBA. How much additional time and energy should Denver put into J.R. before they give up on him? There is no way you can expect a 24 year old to have reached full maturity. There is a flipside to that argument. After receiving input and guidance for six years if a person displays little growth and continues to make the same mistakes, how much more of your limited assets will you pour into him?
At this point you cannot fault the Nuggets for shopping J.R. around the league. I thought Arron Afflalo did not get as many minutes as he deserved last season and trading J.R. would open things up for him to play a larger role. If the Nuggets choose to trade J.R. this season, it will be difficult for me to quibble with the decision. Every contested three he jacked up over the past season sapped a little more of my desire to defend him.
Still, I have to wonder why they would announce their intentions for Smith through the media. J.R. is not the most stable player and I doubt knowing he is likely to be dealt will help him perform better on the court. I may be all hopped up on rumors and conspiracy theories, but I have to wonder if letting their thoughts be known about J.R. might be designed to send some kind of message to teams who are involved in discussions related to Carmelo. During the Indian Summer of Carmelo everything is about Carmelo.
By the way, it is interesting this news is coming out from Denver when the Nuggets are sans GM. It could go to show that there are already plenty of decision makers in place with the presence of Josh Kroenke and Bret Bearup.