Initially, this article was going to be mostly about Taj Gibson and how important he is to the Chicago effort. Also, kind of how he should be starting in front of Boozer most nights for the Bulls anyways. Unfortunately, a Google search helped me update my upcoming free agent database and reveal that Taj, in fact agreed to a 4 year extension worth some major dollar. So instead, I turn to J.R. who has a player option on his 2nd year with the Knicks, and if he chooses to opt out, I think some teams need to look at him, but only some.
Last time an anecdote, this time a disclaimer if you will: any team wishing to sign J.R. Smith, should he chose not to stay with the Knicks, will require two roster spots out of the available 12. One for J.R. himself, and the other for all the swag that he brings along.
Well, now that that’s done, let’s move on.
Smith is an infuriating player, he always has been. He chucks up shots with reckless abandon and if you have a play running through him that requires to pass you might as well write it up as an ISO play once he touches the rock. He takes impossible shots every night and in the mind of J.R., J.R. is always the first and primary option on any offense.
On the other hand, he can excite your team with one single pay. It’s that same recklessness that can translate into pure, unadulterated swag on the court, the on that has your whole bench going when you are. And when you utilized correctly, it can actually be a big boost to your team.
Just look at Smith this season with the Knicks of the bench. He’s posting career highs in points, rebounds and assists (2.8, but still), while playing behind possibly one of the purest scorers in the game today. What Woodson is saying, I found a way to use Smith to his full potential. Sure, he will chuck up the shots when he feels like it, but the offense does not rely on that.
Instead, the offense runs purely through Melo and the Felton/Chandler tandem off the pick and roll. Then, there is a curious case of Amar’e, who is posting some good numbers himself, playing decent ball. This is where Smith will excel. By the time he touches the rock, it pretty much means NYK exhausted all of their other offensive options and he is actually their go-to man at that point. Or he’s open because of a double team on Melo. In either case, he has more freedom for his type of ‘heroics’ because the other team is able to cope.
That is where he works best, that pressure off situation, playing right behind your primary stars. He will only work good with another pure score, someone who is already shooting a lot and can command attention better. He will not work as a team’s 2nd or 3rd option without a dominant ball handler on the floor, keeping the ball out of Smith’s hands.
That being said, the emotional element that Smith brings to the game (along with frustration) could be a boost to a team who needs off the bench production, and an occasional lesson to play better or lose their jobs to J.R., of all people.