Posts Tagged ‘ Knicks ’

THE UNFATHOMABLE JR SMITH

JR Smith is a superstar player. JR Smith should be a superstar player. JR Smith could be superstar. JR Smith has the ability to be a superstar player. JR Smith has the physical talent to be a superstar player. I think that’s enough modification. Should and could are words typically reserved for players who haven’t figured out the league yet. More times than not that’s players who have been in a professionally athlete for less than three or four years. JR Smith has been in the NBA since he was 18 years old. That’s nearly 10 years of experience on how the league works. I’ve never played 1 minute in the NBA, but I know that if my coach and the league warned me not to untie someone’s shoe during a game I wouldn’t do it the very next night. Therein lies the biggest problem with JR Smith. For all of his talent and ability, for all of his physical exploits and shooting prowess and “potential” he proves time and again that he can’t be that superstar player that he should, could or has the ability to be.

This of course goes far beyond untying shoelaces. That act itself, under other circumstances, probably wouldn’t warrant much negative attention especially if a player was making significant contributions between the lines.  But JR Smith has always had character issues while in the league. His ability to get hot and play like an all-star for stretches of games kept him in teams’ rotations for a lot of years, specifically in Denver and definitely in New York. But JR’s play is way down this season compared to what he did just a year ago. Last year JR Smith had his best season on both ends of the floor. He averaged 18 points per game,  had a player efficiency rating of 17.6 and turned the ball over at the lowest rate of his career. Defensively he was just as stellar averaging career a career high in rebounds (4.5) and tied his second career high steals (1.3). All of this was done with Smith coming off of the bench for the Knicks and it helped them win over 50 games.

But ever since he elbowed Jason Terry in the first round of the playoffs he hasn’t even been close to the player who won the Sixth-Man of the Year award in 2012. He finished the playoffs shooting 33 percent and 27 percent from 3-point range. Just to illustrate how far he has fallen you can look at his advanced stats. Offensive Win Shares measure how many wins  a player has contributed to his team with his offense. Last year his number was 4 (the highest in his career) this year…it -0.4. He’s literally cost the teams wins with how bad he is playing this season. Oh and his OWS in the playoffs last season…-0.5!

JR Smith was ejected and suspended an additional game for elbowing Jason Terry during the playoffs. (GIF via SB Nation)

So if you couple JR’s terrible play since April with his many mental mistakes it becomes clear that he isn’t proving to be the “changed man” that people were painting him as last year. There is a third piece to this puzzle though. When a player doesn’t perform well for a significant, that player typically loses playing minutes. If a player shows that he isn’t focused on basketball he can lose playing games. So why hasn’t JR seen any changes in his playing time? Head coach Mike Woodson. Mike Woodson has been a very public supporter of JR Smith and sometimes to a fault. Him believing in JR Smith was a big reason for JR elevating his play last year, but Woodson also claimed when he became a coach that he would hold all of his players accountable. In a game against the Houston Rockets JR Smith took an ill-advised 3-pointer with 19 seconds left and the game tied. JR said he thought the Knicks were down by two (which makes no difference), but to make it worse Woodson blamed Beno Udrih for passing Smith the ball. Woodson has become JR’s enabler. You can’t possibly expect a player to become better if you constantly make excuses for every foolish thing he does.

But at the end of the day it comes back to JR Smith. He’s a grown man and shouldn’t need to be reminded of what that entails as much as he does. I’ve been begging for the Knicks to trade him practically all season. With Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway Jr. on the team you could easily make up what you would miss from a fully functioning JR Smith. The Bockers are reportedly looking for trade partners, which has brought up the question: Who would want him? It’s a valid question because after 10 years all he’s shown fans is that he probably won’t be all the things that should, could and has the ability to be.

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