New York Knicks Rumors: Is Kenyon Martin or J.R. Smith a Better Fit?

on February 03 2012 12:18 PM
  • Kenyon Martin
    Free agent power forward Kenyon Martin has reportedly agreed to a one-year, $2.5 million deal to play for the Los Angeles Clippers. Reuters
  • J.R. Smith
    Smith has climbed up the Knicks' interest ladder, but he may not be the best fit.
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Howard Beck of the New York Times reported that while the New York Knicks remain a team that is still in the sweepstakes for former Denver Nuggets forward Kenyon Martin, their interest in him is modest at best.

Martin
Martin has slipped from the Knicks' interest, but still remains as a potential destination. (Reuters/Rick Wilking)

Rather, they would bring aboard Martin's former Nuggets teammate J.R. Smith, who, like Martin, went to play basketball in China during the NBA lockout. But, who would actually be the better fit for the struggling Knicks?

Certainly both would add depth to a team that practically has none of it. However, each comes with his own strength and weaknesses, too.

Martin is up there in age at 34, but probably has a few good years left. While he will definitely come off the bench playing for the Knicks, he could still efficiently produce 10 points and six rebounds per game. Although Martin had a down year last season, averaging 8.6 points and 6.2 rebounds per game for the Nuggets last season, he still averages 13.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game for his career.

More importantly, he has built a reputation of being a good defender and bringing toughness to the frontline, although he has never been a stellar shot blocker. And, he has about 90 games of postseason experience on his resume, which means he knows how to win and foster a championship mentality among teammates.

The 26-year-old Smith is obviously younger and has many more years ahead of him than Martin. Unlike Martin though, he has a better chance of starting, specifically at shooting guard, which would move Landry Fields to the bench.

Smith
Smith has climbed up the Knicks' interest ladder, but he may not be the best fit. (Reuters/Rick Wilking)

Yet, while Smith can bring explosiveness and run the open floor, especially in transition, he has a score-first mentality, something the Knicks should probably be wary of. Smith averaged 12.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game for the Nuggets last season, the bright side being that he became more efficient, taking about 300 less shots and scoring about 200 less points than he did the previous year.

At the same time, Smith still remains less efficient than Fields for his career: the former has a scoring efficiency of 1.210 and a shooting efficiency of .515, while the numbers for the latter are 1.309 and .561 respectively. Smith and Fields also shoot the three-ball equally well, at 37 percent.

Originally, Martin would have had to wait until his Chinese team, the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, finished its season later this month or in March, depending on the playoffs, to sign with a new team. However, Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski reported that FIBA has cleared him to sign with a team now, although Chinese Basketball Association officials are fighting FIBA's decision.

Reports say that among the teams Martin is considering besides the Knicks are the Clippers, Heat, Hawks, Lakers and Spurs, with the Clippers and Heat topping the most preferable according to Yahoo Sports. The Denver Post reported that Martin isn't planning to return to Denver, which was previously on his list of considerations.  

As for Smith, there have been no reports as to whether he has been cleared to sign now, so it looks like he will have to wait until his Chinese team, the Zhejiang Golden Bulls, finishes its season so he can return to the States and play.

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