J.R. Smith is ready for a breakout season after re-signing with the New York Knicks for two years and $2.8 million per year. This deal is guaranteed only for the first season, and Smith will have a player option for whether or not he would like to return after that.
Smith is extremely happy to be back with New York, releasing this statement to ESPNNewYork.com about his decision to return to the Knicks:
I have decided to re-sign with the Knicks. I just felt that, despite my other options, New York is the best situation for me. Coach (Mike) Woodson showed a lot of faith and trust in me last season, as did (Knicks owner) Mr. (James) Dolan and the organization. My teammates are great to play with and New York fans are the best. I can't wait to get started.
J.R. Smith will get a ton of playing time for New York next season. Last year he played a respectable 27.6 minutes per game, since he had to split time at shooting guard with Landry Fields and Iman Shumpert, but this season he should play even more.
This season the Knicks won’t have Landry Fields, who signed with the Toronoto Raptors this offseason for a three-year deal worth $19 million, and Iman Shumpert will be out until at least January after tearing his ACL versus the Miami Heat during the playoffs last season.
Smith is accustomed to coming off the bench in the NBA but should excel in his new starting role next season.
Over the past five seasons, Smith has started only in 25 games, so you know he will be excited to increase his minutes and take on a more prominent role with the team.
Even if he ends up not starting and is the leader of the second unit again, as he was last season, Smith should be much more successful with Jason Kidd running the point, as apposed to Baron Davis or Mike Bibby.
Even at the age of 39, Kidd is still great at finding his teammates in open scoring positions and is always looking to pass first.
Smith understands how much this will help his game and recently told the New York Post about how excited he is for the possibility of playing alongside Kidd next season:
Wherever J-Kidd is, that’s where I want to be...Wherever J-Kidd is, that’s where I’m at. That’s where I want to be. I love his game. I don’t know him personally. I love his demeanor toward the game, how serious he takes the game. I heard he’s one of the best teammates. He’s a class act from what I understand. It’s open shots all day...Our job is to make them. With J-Kidd, he’s finding everybody. Not only is he going to help myself and [Steve] Novak, he’s going to help our bigs.
Another reason Smith will have a breakout year next season is that he personally doesn’t believe he played as well as he could have during his short stint with the Knicks last year and is out to prove he is better than what he showed on the court.
Last season Smith scored 12.5 points per game but shot only 40.7 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from three.
These averages were the worst of Smith’s eight-year career since he was with the New Orleans Hornets, from 2004-2006.
On top of his poor shooting all season long, Smith was dreadful during the Knicks' five playoff games.
Smith played 35 minutes per game during the playoffs since Shumpert was injured and couldn’t play, but he shot only 31.6 percent from the floor and hit only five out of his 28 attempts from long distance.
Smith understands how poorly he played last season and is determined to bounce back next year, telling the New York Post:
I got a great opportunity from the team to come in and help. I really think I didn’t do that last year. I think I got a lot to prove.
J.R. Smith has been a great shooter throughout his career but really didn’t show that during his 40 total games with the team last season.
With him focused on returning to his previous form this offseason and his minutes and role expected to increase next season, Smith should be poised for a breakout year.