New York Knicks: 4 Ways J.R. Smith Can Impact Team This Season
The New York Knicks have made several additions this offseason. However, perhaps their most significant acquisition was retaining shooting guard JR Smith, whom the team imported from China midway through the 2011-12 campaign.
Smith is an explosive, albeit inconsistent shooter that has the ability to single handedly take over a game. However, he can also act as a ball-stopping turnover machine that kills an offense. Although his inconsistency is mind-numbing, Smith's raw talent makes him a welcome addition to a Knicks roster that needs all the firepower it can get.
Let's take a look at four ways, for better or worse, that JR Smith will impact the Knicks next season.
Last season, the Knicks finished 21st in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage. The team launched up an average of 23.3 shots from long range each game while hitting just over 33 percent of those attempts.
Ironically, the 'Bockers possessed the league's most prolific three-point shooter in Steve Novak a year ago, but still ranked in the bottom third of the NBA in sinking shots from behind the arc.
JR Smith did not seem to get into a rhythm last season. As a player who is among the streakiest shooters in the league, Smith was thrown into an awkward situation after he signed with the Knicks.
Sure, the team needed his firepower. However, Smith was just coming back from China and had no time to successfully integrate himself within the offense. As a result, Smith's three-point percentage dropped from 39 percent in 2010-11 to 34.7 percent a year ago.
If Smith can bring that percentage back up toward 40 percent or higher, he is virtually unguardable. He has the quickness to beat you with his first step and can shoot from ridiculously long-range. In the past, teams would just let him take his ambitious outside shots and grab the rebounds.
However, if after a full training camp with the Knicks this offseason, Smith can find a consistent role within the offense, he could break out in a big way this year.
Check out the video above. It shows Smith going off for 25 points and hitting seven of 10 shots from beyond the arc against the Boston Celtics this past April. Nobody is ever going to shoot 70 percent from three-point range with any consistency. However, Smith has the ability to take over games and open up the offense for the Knicks ball handlers to penetrate. That in and of itself makes him valuable to an offense.
The New York Knicks transformed into one the league's better defenses last season, but no thanks to JR Smith. Smith has always been a liability in the defensive side of the court throughout his career, which is no help to a Knicks team that is planning on penciling Carmelo Anthony, Amar'e Stoudemire and Jason Kidd in for significant minutes.
Smith's poor defense is almost as bewildering as his shot selection. For a guy with his athleticism, there is no reason for him to be a consistent liability on defense.
Every team he has ever played for has given up more points with him on the court than with him on the bench. Smith's aggressive style of play is a major reason why he can't be counted on defensively.
JR Smith was third among shooting guards last season in steals per minute. However, he finished seventh in the league in highest foul rate. He attempts to make a lot of big-time plays on defense and succeeds on some occasions. However, more times than not, he causes an unnecessary five-on-four break and costs his team points.
Knicks head coach Mike Woodson must attempt to curtail JR Smith's risky defensive practices this season. The Knicks are a solid defensive team on the interior and play good team defense. Smith has the ability to be a formidable defender within that scheme, but he must play within the system.
All that said, Smith is actually an above-average rebounder for his position. He has great leaping ability, which allowed him to bring down nearly four boards per game last season.
JR Smith's ability to shoot from long range makes him effective without even putting the ball in his hands. He can spread out a defense and create space for Anthony, Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler to operate around the basket.
That said, Smith was one of the Knicks' primary ball-handlers last season. He was never hesitant to shoot, and 8.2 percent of all his possessions ended up in a turnover.
The Knicks need JR Smith to find his role within the offense. He's an explosive player with the ability to make any shot he takes, but goes on painfully long cold streaks that inhibit his team's ability to run an effective offense.
Smith needs to realize that he is not the Knicks' primary offensive weapon. Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire need the ball in their hands for the team to win. Although Smith will get his opportunities, he can not be taking good shots away from the 'Bockers superstar tandem.
Although he improved in his ball security a year ago, the trend must continue for him to see significant playing time in New York.
The New York Knicks are a solid basketball team. They have Tyson Chandler on the interior and Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire as primary scorers, along with many talented role players.
However, as a squad that is trying to get on the level of the Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and Celtics, the Knicks showed last season that they still have a long way to go.
JR Smith could become a vital aspect of how the Knicks begin to compete with the NBA's elite, or he could remain a reason why they can't. He has as much talent as almost any player in the league.
That said, Smith has never put together a consistent season of solid play. His ability to shoot and create offense off the dribble is tantalizing, yet he doesn't do either on a regular basis.
Regardless, JR Smith provides the Knicks an explosive option on the court that is capable of winning a game almost by himself. For the 'Bockers to compete with the likes of the Heat and Celtics, Smith must provide a semblance of consistently good play either off the bench or as a starting shooting guard.
He has the ability to become a key aspect of something special inside Madison Square Garden this season. History says Smith will remain a frustrating player who will show flashes of greatness to complement mediocre play. However, if he can break from that mold in 2012-13, the Knicks might just have a chance to transform into one of the league's serious contenders.