When news broke that the New York Knicks signed Chris Smith to a two-year deal, Knicks fans were shocked. Smith played on the Knicks’ summer league squad, but was far from impressive. The summer league roster was chalk full of below-average guards, and Smith didn’t perform well enough to stand out. Though, being the brother of JR Smith has some perks, I guess.
There’s no way to tell if this deal was part of the Knicks’ agreement with JR Smith, who appeared to have taken less money to return to New York, but, luckily, don’t expect this signing to make or break the Knicks’ chances in the upcoming season.
First off, the Knicks did in fact sign Chris Smith to a two-year deal, but that doesn’t mean he’ll make the roster. The terms of Smith’s deal have yet to service, but it’s very likely that the Knicks signed Smith to a summer contract, which essentially means they only pay him a per diem, lodging and transportation expenses, as well as cover his insurance while in training camp. If Smith earns a roster spot after training camp, then the contract which he signed will kick in. There’s no restrictions on the length or value of a summer contract, so Smith’s contract fits, and no matter the value or length, the actually deal doesn’t materialize unless the player warrants a roster spot on day one of the NBA season.
Chris Smith could play well enough to warrant the deal, but the Knicks could choose to keep him on the D-League roster intead of the NBA roster. However, if such a maneuver happens, Smith will still count against the Knicks’ roster size, since players whose rights are held by a NBA team count as an inactive player for the time they spend in the D-League. So, the Knicks could store Smith in the D-League, but it wouldn’t allow for them to sign an additional player in his space.
Now, if Smith does in fact make the team, or D-League team, don’t read into the two-year contract too much. Grunwald likely included that second year to have the option of using it in a trade – just like he did with Dan Gadzuric. While the Knicks can’t complete any sign-and-trades from now on, they can still make trades. A non-guaranteed deal is valuable, since the team that receives Smith will be able to immediately waive him, without a salary hit, and be able to ship 125% of Smith’s salary back to the Knicks. Smith’s deal will allow the Knicks to take back $692,005 more salary in any trade including him, rather than in a trade excluding him.
After looking at this move more, I actually sort of like it. JR Smith is happy that his brother is with him, Chris Smith is given a shot to make the team, with little to no financial impact on the Knicks, and if Smith makes the team, the Knicks will have some flexibility with a non-guaranteed deal to include in any trade. Of course, if Smith doesn’t make the team, the Knicks will still have one (two if Copeland doesn’t either) roster spot open to fill before opening day, assuming they carry a full 15-man roster.
A win-win, assuming Smith did indeed sign a summer contract, I’d say.