Over the course of the offseason, Buckets Over Broadway will be doing year-end report cards of the New York Knicks roster. The roster experienced a decent amount of overhaul this season, so we’ll simply be covering the core players of the 2012-13 team. Players will be analyzed by their offense, defense, and overall contributions throughout the season. Next up is J.R. Smith.
Offense: There’s no harder player to try and grade than J.R. Smith. On one hand he showed the ability to carry the Knicks at times as throughout the season he became the legitimate second scoring option that the Knicks needed badly. But on the other hand he continued to do so many of the things that have continued to plague him throughout his career.
Despite the frustrations, Smith did have a career year, averaging career bests in points (18.1), rebounds (5.3) and minutes played (33.5), en route to capturing the Sixth Man of the Year Award. But despite the big numbers and a few game winners along the way, Smith still proved to be the guy at times that forced countless shots and took momentum away from the Knicks on more than one occasion.
However somewhere along the way Smith started to figure things out. During the final two months of the season Smith averaged 22.0 points per game by taking the ball to the basket more often and not settling for numerous contested jumpers. His amount of threes attempted per game went down considerably while he got to the free-throw line much more often.
The only thing holding him back was shot selection throughout the course of the season. Smith shot a decent 42 percent from the floor but only 35 percent from behind the arc. I shudder to think how good those numbers could have been had he played the entire season like he did the final two months. Love him or hate him though, he was pretty good with the ball in his hands. Grade: B+
Defense: Smith wasn’t bad defensively, but he has the talent to be so much better. He takes plenty of possessions off throughout the course of a game and often struggles to defend when he gives effort.
Synergy rated him as the worst defensive player in the league in 2010-11; in 2011-12, he merely rated as the worst on his team. During the 2012-13 campaign he wasn’t much better. With his talent, he should be much better than this. The Knicks give up more points with him on the court, just like all his teams have, and as usual his gambles were a big reason.
Smith ranks among the top shooting guards in the league in steals per minute, but also ranks among the top in foul rate. Then there is the constant crying and complaining (like all Knicks do) every time he is whistled for a foul.
When Smith has his moments of defending well, it often results in the Knicks getting out in transition. But far too often does he get lost on the perimeter and we saw how teams torched the Knicks from the outside in 2013. Grade: C-
Overall Grade: With Smith we will just average out the two grades. Lucky for him these are regular season marks and the postseason is not factored in or his grade would be much worse. Overall Grade: B-