J.R. Smith and the Chicago Bulls: A Perfect Match?
The Chicago Bulls are a team with incredible depth at the shooting guard position. Keith Bogans, Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver all provide valuable and unique abilities that help round out one of the league's most complete teams, whether it's Korver's sharpshooting or Bogans' and Brewer's defensive prowess. Here's the problem though: They don't have a starter.
Thanks largely to MVP Derrick Rose, as well as players like Luol Deng and Joakim Noah, the Bulls look to be a championship contender for years to come. That being said, the dearth of playmakers on the Chicago roster have really hindered the Bulls at times this season. Throughout the season, they've gone into long scoring droughts due to the inability of everyone besides MVP to create their own shots off the dribble.
Noah's an excellent passing big man and Deng can create in spurts, but neither should be counted on to be consistent shot-makers on the offensive end. This is where J.R. Smith would help them.
Many NBA fans are down on Smith, citing his poor decision making and general bad attitude. While it's true he has clashed with coaches before, he's never really been in a system that would allow him to flourish.
After being drafted straight out of high school by the New Orleans Hornets, Smith showed promise his rookie year. Despite that, his playing time dropped significantly the next season, which really halted his on and off-court development.
Smith was then traded, first to Chicago (ironically) and then ultimately to Denver, where he's been since 2006. He's shown some flashes of brilliance on the Nuggets, but has spent a great deal of his time in Colorado clashing with head coach George Karl. Smith has made it clear he wants to sign elsewhere now that he is a free agent.
At least to me, part of the reason Smith has such a bad reputation is because he's never been in a system that has enabled him to grow. Byron Scott never really allowed him to mature, and though George Karl's a great coach, his uptempo offensive style can encourage bad shots.
Being on a defense-oriented team like the Bulls could do wonders for Smith. He has shown glimpses of being an excellent defender, but to really become one he needs to be on a team with a strong defensive mentality. Take Ray Allen as an example: He was never considered an elite defender, but once he came to Boston and bought into Doc Rivers' system, he became one of the better defensive shooting guards in the NBA
Thibodeau's team-first mentality would hopefully have the same effect on Smith. He's demonstrated excellent decision making and passing sporadically throughout his career, and at only 25, can still be molded into an excellent team player with proper guidance. Having Thibodeau as well as a veteran presence and excellent defender like Bogans would certainly do Smith some good.
Smith wouldn't necessarily be the second option on offense, but he would be the clear cut second option as far as making plays. Much like Rose, his penetration would allow for a drive-and-kick to open teammates on the perimeter. His three-point shooting ability would help space the floor and force his defender to play up on him. Should a defender go under the pick, he can drill the three, and if they play close he can make a pass or use his quickness to beat his man off the dribble to the rim.
One of the main issues with the Bulls' two guards is their lack of versatility. Kyle Korver's an excellent distance shooter, but a huge liability on defense, particularly in pick-and-rolls. While Korver is a better three-point shooter than Smith (Korver shoots 41 percent from three for his career to Smith's 37 percent), J.R.'s offensive versatility is far greater. He can attack the rim, pull up and make long range baskets, which make him a far more difficult cover.
Brewer and Bogans are excellent defenders but aren't capable of providing much on the offensive end. Though Bogans can drill an open three-pointer, Chicago can't depend on him to give them consistent scoring. Brewer, who signed a three-year $12.5 million contract with Chicago last offseason, was underutilized this year.
Signing Smith to a comparable deal to Korver (three years, $15 million) would allow them to look into moving the one-dimensional sharpshooter if they wanted and give them a legitimate starter in the process. Bringing Bogans and Brewer off the bench would give them two stellar perimeter defenders to sub in if Smith is having difficulty on that end of the floor.
Obviously issues could arise were they to sign Smith, but the Bulls need a starter and Smith still has huge potential if harnessed properly. If the Bulls made it this far without him, imagine what they could do with J.R.?
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