This off-season certainly has been eventful for J.R. Smith. After signing a four-year $24.5 million dollar contract, wait ummm, rather three-year $17.95 million dollar contract to stay in blue and orange this upcoming season, it was soon discovered that he would be undergoing surgery to repair a damaged patella tendon and a torn lateral meniscus in his left knee. The deal actually works out for Smith and the team, because the Knicks can get out from under the deal if Smith’s knee’s continue to be problematic, and for Smith if he continues to improve, he can get one last big money deal at age 31.
That was how Smith started the summer, it only got more interesting from there. Soon after signing the deal Smith was spotted in the meatpacking district, New York City, driving a Gurkha F5, which is made by Toronto-based Terradyne Armored Vehicles. The truck is used by police and military personnel and was featured in the hit movie ‘Fast & Furious 5′. Oh and did I forget to mention the truck costs nearly half a million dollars?
Let’s not forget that just a few weeks ago it was discovered that Smith, who will likely be recovering from surgery to start the season, will be suspended five games once he is healthy enough to play for violating the terms of the NBA’s anti-drug program. Not to mention the back and forth banter between Smith and Brooklyn Nets newcomers Paul Pierce and Jason Terry…Smith certainly knows how to stay in the headlines.
For as much of a headache as J.R. Smith is off the court, his game certainly elevated on the court this season for the New York Knicks. Smith had his best professional season in 2012-2013 averaging 18.1 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game. This included a PER (Player Efficiency Rating) of 17.67, which is above league average. These numbers lead to a sixth man of the year award for Smith.
When examining Smith’s shot chart two things are very clear. He loves the left side of the floor and loves the mid range shot. We all know he is infamous for taking those ‘No No No…Yes!’ shots that are low percentage and highly difficult. He is the epitome of a bad shot shooter, but no one complains when they are dropping consistently.
Speaking of consistency, that will be the key word for J.R. Smith next season. Better decision making and better shot selection are the key parts of Smith’s game that need the most work. Far too often he settled for a contested jumper rather than driving to the basket for at least an easier attempt. Considering how athletic Smith is there is no reason he can’t get around most opposing defenders. He must continue his maturation on and off the court in order to be worthy of a big contract before his career is over.
Last year we all saw a change in Carmelo Anthony and J.R. Smith on the defensive end. They were both known as lazy defenders who tried to use athleticism to bail out of poor effort situations, but last year they were diving for loose balls, trying for steals and blocking shots. Those are the type of all-out effort plays that the Knicks will need moving forward in order to be successful. They both still need to improve at one-on-one defense, because too often Tyson Chandler has to be the anchor in the paint and he can’t do it alone. Considering Andrea Bargnani and Amare Stoudemire will see time at the power forward, Chandler will be defending the post solo again.
After the smoke clears and the dust settles J.R. Smith will be back on the court sometime in November and all Knicks fans have to be realistic, there will be rust. After all he isn’t going to be in game shape considering he can’t take to court until that knee is nearly 100%. I expect a slight dip in numbers for Smith, not because of lack of skill, but rather I expect Iman Shumpert, in his third season and having a full training camp this season, to use the time while Smith is injured to show that he can be the secondary scoring option behind Carmelo Anthony. If Shumpert doesn’t show the type of improvement the team expects then Smith will be asked to take over the scoring role off the bench once again.
Realistic numbers for J.R. Smith this season will be anywhere from 13-16 points, 3-5 rebounds, and 2-3 assists per game. Aside from Iman Shumpert, I also expect newcomers Andrea Bargnani and Metta World Peace to take over some of the scoring load next season. Smith will be battling to get back into the form he was last season throughout the 2013-2014 season. He will be trying to show that his dreadful play in the 2013 playoffs were an anomaly and the Knicks will need him to play well in order to advance in the playoffs next season.
On a side note, we should all expect more headlines, title guarantees, arguing with the crosstown rival, ridiculous purchases (cars, bling, tattoos) and entertaining instagram pictures. After all, it’s a J.R. Smith world and we’re all just living in it. Sit back and enjoy the show.