Apr 22 2013
Hey! JR Smith won Sixth Man of the Year!
I have no issues with JR winning this award as I would’ve voted for him if I had a ballot. My mock ballot looked like this:
1. JR Smith
2. Ryan Anderson
3. Matt Barnes
4. Jarrett Jack
5. Jamal Crawford.
Winning 6MOY has become an award about wing scorers, and JR certainly would fit into that category, but that isn’t why I think he’s deserving of winning. If you looked at the majority of this season, he was largely inefficient shooting the ball (remember the ridiculous JR for all-star campaign?). Over the last month and a half, he’s been fantastic, but the season isn’t comprised of just it’s last month and a half. If this was an award about efficient scoring, Ryan Anderson is my runaway winner. But it’s not.
Given the structure of the Knicks roster, JR Smith is nearly as important as Tyson Chandler and Carmelo Anthony. Not only does he provide the Knicks with much needed volume shooting and off the dribble shot creation, but his positional versatility and improved defense has proven to be invaluable this season. Nobody would argue that he’s a lockdown defender by any means, but he’s vastly improved from his days in Denver. Smith is a member of the Knicks most used 5 man lineup this season (Chandler, Anthony, Smith, Kidd, Felton), which is also the lineup they usually finish games with. That lineup posted an O-RTG of 119.3 and a D-RTG of 92.5. Given the personnel on the court, Smith is almost always guarding the opponent’s best perimeter scorer and while he’s not the best defender, there is value to that.
His positional versatility allows the Knicks to play their small ball offense effectively as well. He’s obviously a good spot up outside shooter, but his improved defense allows him to be a good spot up shooter from both the 2 and 3 spots, allowing the Knicks to mix and match wing personnel as they see fit. Smith’s ball handling ability bodes well for him as a secondary pick and roll ball handler, an important trait in the Knick offense. As mentioned above, he’s one of the only shot creators on the team alongside Carmelo Anthony and to a lesser extent Chris Copeland. Often times Smith brings the ball up the court and initiates the offense. Point is, he does plethora of things on offense and he does them quite well.
I think he’s deserving of this reward because of how much he does for the Knicks on both ends of the court. Not only is he the teams second leading scorer, but he defends the other teams best player and plays multiple positions. His durability should not be overlooked, especially because he plays on a team that has been by plagued by injuries all season. Smith lead the team in minutes played, played in 80 of the Knicks 82 games and logged 33.5 mpg. JR Smith was absolutely invaluable to the Knicks success this season because of the various roles he played on a team that finished 2nd in the Eastern conference. You’re selling this man short if you think of him only as a volume scorer. That may have been true in the past, but that was not the case this season. Congrats Earl!
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