Friday, February 17, 2012

J.R. Smith: Good or Bad Fit in New York?

(Photo courtesy of

J.R. Smith is officially a Knick for the "room" exception of $2.5 million, and his arrival likely signals the end of Renaldo Balkman's second tour of duty with the Knicks.

On the good side of things, Balkman for Smith is a definite upgrade and the Knicks have been searching for another reliable shooter off the bench. The Knicks' current bench shooters, Bill Walker and Steve Novak, play the same positions as Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire, which would make minutes hard to come by once the team is fully healthy.

As a career 37% three-point shooter and a guy who can fill it up at times, Smith will be a welcome addition to the Knicks' bench. But his reputation as a selfish player continues to follow him around the league. Will the combination of him and Anthony destroy the ever-so-tenuous chemistry this team has right now?

To his credit, Anthony has said all the right things about the new-look Knicks led by Jeremy Lin. Anthony even pushed Mike D'Antoni to give Lin a chance, so it would look pretty bad if he came in and slowed down the offense yet again, along with the team's winning streak.

Like Anthony, Smith can also be a ball-stopper and there don't seem to be heavy minutes available for him; will he be okay with that?

Smith could have started for the Clippers, but chose the Knicks because they could offer more than the veteran's minimum. Reading into this says that Smith is about the money more than the playing time, which could work in the Knicks' favor.

The other issue with this move is what the Knicks will do with Iman Shumpert, who has been thriving recently playing mostly shooting guard and small forward. Shumpert is a great perimeter defender and is essential to the Knicks' 2012 success and while Smith is all offense, he could be just as important.

Assuming 35 minutes for Anthony, 35 for Lin and 30 for Landry Fields, who should still start over Smith, that leaves 44 minutes for both Smith and Shumpert at both guard and small forward positions. Each player should see 20-25 minutes off the bench and while that leaves Walker, Toney Douglas and Mike Bibby in the cold, that's not a bad thing this season.

Shumpert has struggled in the backup point guard role this season but most of those minutes will come will Smith or Anthony (or both) in the game, which will help lessen Shumpert's ball-handling role and let him focus more on being the shut-down defender the Knicks need him to be.

For those worried about the Knicks' chemistry, all they need to do is get it right by the playoffs (assuming they don't tank badly enough to fall out of the 8th spot; they're currently 2.5 games ahead of Milwaukee). On paper, this looks like an awesome move for a team that needed a player with Smith's skill set.

Of course, basketball games are not played on paper and it will be interesting to see how the team meshes once all the pieces are in place, likely for Sunday's marquee matinee against Dallas. I'm actually more worried about Anthony's return than Smith's arrival as far as chemistry goes.

As long as Smith checks his attitude at the door (I know, big if), this move will look good. Half of Smith's minutes will likely come with Shumpert at the point as well, so he might not see enough court time with Lin to destroy any of the flow the team is currently enjoying.

Adding a competent scorer to a backup unit that lacks such a player and pairing a high-usage swingman with an out-of-position point guard actually makes sense for the Knicks. It remains to be seen if it looks as good in person as on paper, but the intrigue surrounding this team continues to grow ever since Lin took over at point guard.

No comments:

Post a Comment