Source: J.R. Smith on Trading Block
A source close to the situation said the Nuggets are looking to trade the erratic Smith, who is entering the final year of a contract that will pay the shooting guard $6.03 million.
There have been trade rumors before about Smith since he joined the Nuggets in 2006, but they have lacked validity since Mark Warkentien, once Denver's vice president of basketball operations, was adamant about not trading Smith. But Warkentien's contract was not renewed earlier this month and Smith's biggest supporter was gone. It was Warkentien who acquired Smith in 2006 from Chicago for the low price of two second-round picks and the non-guaranteed contract of Howard Eisley, who was waived.
It might be a surprise if Smith is still with the Nuggets past the February trade deadline. The Nuggets might not want to risk losing him for nothing as a free agent next summer and he has yet to show enough in his time with Denver for team officials to believe he deserves a lucrative new contract.
Smith finished second in voting in 2008-09 for the Sixth Man Award but he regressed last season. While his scoring average went up slightly to 15.4 points per game, he shot just 41.4 percent, including 33.8 percent from three-point range.
Smith has butted heads regularly with Nuggets coach George Karl, but in Game 6 of last spring's 4-2 first-round playoff loss to Utah, Karl was not with the team due to a form of throat cancer. With assistant Adrian Dantley in charge, Smith sat at the end of the bench late in the season finale and sulked.
For now Denver's higher priorities are finding at least one front office replacement for Warkentien and vice president of player personnel Rex Chapman -- also let go earlier this month -- and figuring out the Carmelo Anthony situation. Anthony has yet to decide if he will sign a three-year, $64.7 million contract extension that ıs on the table, and the Nuggets are pondering what they might want to do if Anthony continues to stall or decides against the offer.
But Smith is on the trading block. And Warkentien is no longer around to push for him to stay.
Chris Tomasson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter@christomasson.