‘Clueless’ Dennis Smith Jr.’s Knicks exit looks likely with allies gone

‘Clueless’ Dennis Smith Jr.’s Knicks exit looks likely with allies gone

Part 14 of a series analyzing the New York Knicks

Point guard Dennis Smith Jr. helped get former Knicks president Steve Mills fired.

It was bad enough Mills failed to use the Knicks’ league-high cap space appropriately following the Kristaps Porzingis blockbuster trade 14 months ago.

Adding insult to injury was that Smith, the Knicks’ prized athletic acquisition from the Mavericks, laid an egg in 2019-20. The Porzingis trade was Mills’ undoing, according to multiple sources.

Everything that could have gone wrong for the 22-year-old Smith in his first full season in New York did go wrong. Smith hurt his back in training camp, then lost his stepmother in October, which led to a two-week family leave.

He never could regain a rhythm or get enough playing time, battling for minutes with Elfrid Payton and Frank Ntilikina.

Smith’s offseason jump-shot clinics with assistant Keith Smart didn’t pay dividends and he became prone to turnovers.

Knicks
Dennis Smith Jr.AP

When Smart got fired along with Fizdale in December, according to a source, it was a big blow to Smith. Fizdale and Smart were key allies.

Smith went on to suffer an obscure oblique injury around Christmas that cost him 13 games. In late February, Smith sustained a concussion, forcing him out another five contests.

Upon his return to the active roster, interim coach Mike Miller kept him on the bench for two straight games to close out the season so far. It was an unmitigated disaster.

Now he’s back in North Carolina, having just donated food vouchers and computers to his hometown of Fayetteville during the coronavirus pandemic. No doubt he’s wondering what his Knicks future holds.

“In short, Dennis is gifted but clueless,’’ one Western Conference personnel man told The Post. “ He’s supremely athletic and can be a gifted scorer as an attack-style ballhandler. But he’s an average shooter and non-passer. And doesn’t have a clue how to make others better. Plus he’s an indifferent defender, meaning when the mood strikes him.’’

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If the regular season is over, Smith will finish ranked 483th out of 503 players in real-plus minus (minus-2.54) — considered a more accurate barometer than standard plus-minus. In 34 games, Smith shot 34.1 percent — 29.6 from 3.

New president Leon Rose has no political attachment to Smith like Mills did. Trading Smith will be an option in the offseason as the Knicks try to figure out their point-guard solution.

Minnesota had some interest, but the additions of D’Angelo Russell and combo guard Malik Beasley make the Timberwolves less likely to pounce. The Magic could be a suitor.

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