The New York Knicks have started the season 4-0 and have amazingly done it without the help of Amar'e Stoudemire, who is currently recovering from knee surgery. In his place, sixth man J.R. Smith has shouldered most of the scoring load behind Carmelo Anthony, to the tune of 17.5 points per game and an astounding 69 percent from long range.
Al Iannazzone of Newsday discussed how a large part of the Knicks' success this year is because Smith finally accepted his role as a bench guy despite lobbying for a starting role during training camp. He has become the teammate Anthony needs, and the one Amar'e Stoudemire never could or even tried to be.
Look at it this way. Anthony is the type of player who needs freedom with the ball and likes to create his own shot. However, if he's double or even triple-teamed, this becomes difficult and he needs to dump the ball off to a reliable teammate who can put points on the board in his place.
Unfortunately, that man is not Stoudemire. Despite having good size at 6'11" and 245 pounds, he is a student of Mike D'Antoni's run and gun offense and far prefers to utilize his jumper instead of getting his hands dirty under the basket. Sure, he has shot an excellent 53 percent from the floor for his career, but playing a strong game in the paint is not exactly his forte.
Smith, on the other hand, has turned into more than just a bench shooter. This season, he has shot from long range, driven hard to the basket and, per usual, thrown down some sick dunks. Where Stoudemire would look to fake a defender out so he could take a jumper, Smith tries to draw a foul.
The sad truth is that as talented as Stoudemire is, he's never going to be anything more than a scorer. He won't try to create his own shot like Anthony and Smith do and his defense will be minimal at best.
More importantly, just look at how the Knicks have done without Stoudemire in the lineup. Aside from their 4-0 start this season, the team went 12-5 last season after Mike Woodson took over as head coach and Stoudemire missed time with back problems before the playoffs.
Long story short, with the Anthony-Smith tandem having carried the Knicks to four double-digit margin victories to start the season, the team has proven that they can win without their injury-prone power forward. Thus, when he's set to return in a few weeks, why upset the apple cart and get rid of a starting lineup that has been working thus far?
The facts are simple. If Carmelo Anthony is Michael Jordan, J.R. Smith has proven to be his Scottie Pippen thus far this season. He only shoots when called upon to do so and plays solid defense to the point where he'll do anything to get his team another scoring chance. Stoudemire, sadly, just tries to be another Jordan.
Once that starts happening, he starts hurting the Knicks in the worst way, further proving that he just isn't right for Woodson's system.