J.R. Smith confirmed on Twitter that he will become a New York Knick. Now there are concerns that J.R. Smith has poor shot selection, can play selfish basketball and is not always committed on defense. In a vacuum, all of these concerns are valid. However, roster moves are not made in a vacuum. You have to look at who J.R. Smith would be replacing on the Knicks.
Now it looks like Renaldo Balkman will be cut to make room for J.R. Smith. The bigger question is whom will J.R. Smith replace in the rotation. There is no way that J.R. Smith should start for the Knicks.
He is not the high efficiency, low usage player that the Knicks need to have with Jeremy Lin, Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire. In fact, other than Ray Allen or Aaron Afflalo, there might not be a better fit for the Knicks than Landry Fields.
Therefore, J.R. Smith must come off the bench. During this Linsanity craze (need a new nickname because I firmly believe a championship team should have no way to relate itself to Vince Carter), the Knicks' offensive production from the bench came solely from Iman Shumpert and Steve Novak.
With Carmelo Anthony coming back soon, the bench rotation for the Knicks consists of Iman Shumpert, Steve Novak, Jared Jeffries, Billy Walker and the corpse of Mike Bibby (Baron Davis get well soon). With the potential returns of Baron Davis and the inevitable return of Josh Harrellson, the Knicks second unit will be Baron Davis, Iman Shumpert, Bill Walker, Jared Jeffries, Josh Harrelson and Steve Novak.
So who does J.R. Smith replace? In my mind, the answer is Bill Walker.
To me, Bill Walker is a poor man's version of J.R. Smith. He has below average basketball IQ, can shoot (albeit inconsistently), frustrates with his shot selection and is not exactly Scottie Pippen on defense. So looking at the J.R. Smith acquisition, it provides the Knicks a clear upgrade over Bill Walker.
It allows some more depth for the Knicks who could have a potential 11-man rotation (that will be huge for the regular season as the season becomes more condensed). It provides the Knicks a second outside shooter to Novak. However, unlike Novak, J.R. Smith provides some athleticism which implies some defensive potential.
Another reason not to fear the acquisition of J.R. Smith is the atmosphere in the Knicks locker room. People have described this Knicks team as tight-knit, all for the cause and even collegiate. There are vocal leaders in Tyson Chandler and Baron Davis (yes, when Baron cares he is a good leader).
They have rallied around the performance and the story of Jeremy Lin. With the team culture the way it is, J.R. Smith has to fall in and he has to play like the member of a team. Because if he does not, he will be spending a lot of time on the bench.
An individual alone cannot divide the locker room when the others are united by a sense of team. And I believe that the spirit of this team is strong enough to adopt J.R. Smith or to make them impervious to him.
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