The New York Knicks have come a long way since Mike D’Antoni was replaced with interim head coach Mike Woodson, posting an 18-6 mark down the stretch, changing the way this team plays the game in the process.
The Knicks all-around depth has turned into a major strength as they’ve received key contributions from almost everyone on the roster down the stretch. That depth will have to continue to play a major role as the Knicks head into the postseason, as one man in particular could play the key role in any chances of the Knicks pulling a first-round upset over the favored Miami Heat.
Shooting guard J.R. Smith wasn’t even on the Knicks’ roster until mid-February, but he could turn into the most important piece of a potentially lengthy playoff run.
Smith has a skill-set that not many players off the Knicks bench have. Sure he can shoot the ball and can make a few plays at the defensive end of the floor, but the one thing that Smith can do is create his own shot. That ability could come into play in a big way against a Heat team that thrives off forcing turnovers and getting out in transition.
Using the shot-clock effectively at times and keeping the ball in Smith’s hands when the starters are on the bench will play a big role in trying to slow Miami down.
Of course if that’s the case Smith has to knock down shots consistently. If he and Steve Novak are hitting a high percentage of their shots from the perimeter, I like the Knicks chances to at least make this series a lengthy one.
Novak, the NBA’s leader in three-point percentage (.472) is just as big for the Knicks chances, but it’s Smith who could possibly make or break the Knicks in this series.
When Smith is shooting the ball well, he is a weapon that can carry a team through lengthy stretches.
But when he’s not, Smith is the type of player that can shoot a team right out of a series.
New York needs Smith hot and simply can’t afford him chucking up bad shots and shooting a low percentage from the floor.
He’s had his good moments on the season, but has also shown glimpse of the Smith off old at time. Despite him fitting in and playing unselfish basketball, which is something that really concerned me when he was signed, his overall numbers could suggest a guy that could ultimately shoot the Knicks out of the series.
Throughout the regular season, Smith averaged 11.6 shot attempts per game, but only shot .407 from the floor. From behind the arc, where Smith can play a big role in this series, he averaged 5.5 attempts per game while shooting only .347.
Quite simply those numbers must be better this series.
Smith’s a player who can provide the secondary scoring the Knicks will need in the postseason, but he needs to make shots more consistently to be a big factor.
It’s not only just about making shots for Smith; it’s about when he makes them.
In tight situations or spots where the Knicks could look to extend a lead, Smith must come through in the clutch.
He’s going to get plenty of opportunities to do so. If Smith makes big shots in big moments, the Knicks will be better off. If he doesn’t, he could end up shooting the Knicks right to an early playoff exit.