If the Los Angeles Clippers want to stand out as the team to beat in the West then it is imperative that the Clippers acquire Smith via free agency.
According to a source at ESPN.com, J.R. Smith has narrowed his selection of teams down to two, the New York Knicks and the Clippers—this might be great news for the Clippers. With all the hype surrounding Jeremy Lin in New York, Smith might want to feed into the hype or stay away from the hype because of the lack of touches he may get between Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Lin. My assumption is that the latter is a higher possibility, but I digress.
With the loss of Chauncey Billups to a season-ending Achilles injury, the Clippers need Smith more than ever. Smith will not be a huge drop-off when it comes to scoring and clutch play. However, Smith will not bring the leadership qualities that Billups had, but where the leadership qualities lack in Smith, the speed and up-tempo style of the Clippers better fits Smith than it did Billups.
Also, Smith will be playing at the position he is comfortable with, unlike Billups who was playing at the shooting guard spot when he is usually a point guard. Currently, another point guard, Randy Foye, is playing out of position and starting at the shooting guard position for the Clippers.
As a team, the Clippers will benefit much more from Smith starting at their shooting guard position than Foye or any other point guard. Unlike Foye or Billups, Smith does not need the ball to create his own shot; all Smith needs is a decent point guard to find Smith when he is open—Chris Paul is beyond decent.
How far can the Clippers go with J.R. Smith?
The game will flow much better for “Lob City” with Smith in the starting lineup—at least when the starters are on the floor, all five players will be playing at their natural positions.
With the addition of Smith, the Clippers will automatically become a better three-point shooting team. Smith is known in the NBA as an assassin when it comes to the three-point ball. In Smith’s seven-year career he averages about 1.8 three-pointers made per game.
Of the 503 games played in Smith’s career, he has only been a starter for 129 games. From 2008-2010, Smith was averaging close to 27 minutes of playing time and scoring about 2.7 three-pointers per game. As a Clipper, whether or not Smith is a starter or a sixth man, he will undoubtedly play close to 30 minutes per game. With a better point guard and unselfish players around him, Smith will have plenty more chances to score than he did while playing for the Denver Nuggets.
The Clippers are desperate for this type of production out of a player if they want to ensure a spot in the NBA Finals. The Clippers look great now and will likely compete for the finals even without Smith, but it is very likely that other teams in the West are going to get better before the trade deadline.
The Clippers' crosstown rivals, the Los Angeles Lakers, are looking to get stronger before the trade deadline. A big trade for the Lakers might disrupt the mood in Los Angeles and put the ball back in the Lakers' court.
The Clippers need to strike and sign Smith before the Lakers or any other team in the West makes a big signing for a free agent or trade for a disgruntled All-Star.
The Clippers do not want to lose their hype and momentum in Los Angeles just because the Lakers went out and traded for a big star. The Clippers need to be aware of what is going on around them and make sure to complete this move.
If the Clippers sign Smith it would definitely bring add some more excitement to the already electric Clippers. Smith is one of the most energetic players in the game.
Smith will definitely fit the bill with the Lob City Clippers because of his fun and energetic style of game play—which may be a gift or a curse. The Clippers are a high-tempo team and nothing says high tempo like a streaky three-point shooter. Smith is likely the streakiest three-point shooter in the NBA.
If Paul’s campaign is effective and the Clippers do entice Smith more than Lin and the New York Knicks do, then Smith will definitely give the Clippers a much-needed boost in production at the shooting guard position and from three-point land. If the Clippers do go ahead and sign Smith, it will put the Lakers and every team in the West and the NBA on notice—the Clippers are for real.