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Top 50 NBA Players: #43 J.R. Smith

J.R. Smith
Resume: 18.1 points (career best), 5.3 rebounds (career best), 2.7 assists, 1.3 steals, 33.5 minutes (career best), 42% FG, 36% 3PT, and 76% FT… Team record in games played: 53-27 (1-1 without)… Playoffs: 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds (career best), 1.0 steal, 31.9 minutes, 33% FG, 27% 3PT, 72% FT, 6-5 (0-1 without)… Sixth Man of the Year

A quick and conventional pros and cons list evaluating a player who is at least 1,000 miles from conventional.

Pro: An off the bench scorer who through the regular season certainly looked capable of being the 2nd scorer for a contender. Smith is one of the top “Holy crap, he’s heating up NBA Jam style… this could get good!” players in the league along with Durant, LeBron, Curry, Kobe, Kyrie, Westbrook, and teammate Carmelo Anthony. His ability to put guys on skates (underrated), attack the basket (very underrated), create his own shot (when you’re willing to shoot the ball from almost anywhere, it’s easy to create your own shot), bury three’s (155 on the season) and hit shots that have absolutely no business going in make him one of the most dynamic scorers in the NBA… at times.

Con: At other times, Smith’s lack of conscience is a detriment to his team. His 42% shooting on the season isn’t reflective of his true scoring ability. It has more to do with the fact that he has absolutely no conscience whatsoever during any situation in the game. Smith has no qualms with jacking up bad shot after bad shot after bad shot even when he’s in the midst of a 3 for 14 shooting slump, which he’s had his fair share of. We’ll get to this more in a bit.

Apr 23, 2013; New York, NY, USA; New York Knicks shooting guard J.R. Smith (8) receives the 6th man award before game two in the first round of the 2013 NBA playoffs against the Boston Celtics at Madison Square Garden. Knicks won 87-71. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports

Pro: You have to give credit to Smith for being able to pull off the name “J.R.” even though his given name is Earl Smith III. He’s the third in a long line of Earl Smith’s, yet people called him junior so he opted to go by J.R. Big props for making the move.

Con: If you’re looking to place a bet with your local sports book on which teammate combination would be the catalysts of an all-out brawl during a game, your current odds on favorites are J.R. Smith and new teammate—and Malice at the Palace veteran— Metta World Peace. Those two combined with Spike Lee are the perfect cocktail of fearlessness, annoyingness, recklessness, and blonde haired-ness to make it happen.

Pro: During the offseason Smith experimented with some curious hair style choices and ultimately landed on blond, sort of like Beyonce. Unfortunately Knicks head coach Mike Woodson wasn’t too keen on the look and put the kibosh on the drastic transformation. With his hair dyed gold Smith looked strikingly similar to Thong Song artist Sisqo… and whenever you could make yourself look like the man who came up with the lyrics, “She had dumps like a truck, truck, truck,” you have to do it.

Con: Normally having a rap song made for you is a good thing and definitely helps your rep, but when it’s low quality and by a rapper named Milford Jerome, I deduct points.

Pro: In the first 54 games of the season Smith played relatively mediocre ball, scoring 16 points per game on 40% shooting. From March 1st until the end of the season Smith flipped a switch and played like a top 20 player in the league; someone who as previously mentioned was well equipped to be the 2nd best guy on a title contender. During that 26 game stretch when the surging Knicks went 19-7, Smith averaged 22.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and shot 46% from the field. He played absolutely huge against top competition (36 points against OKC, three straight 30 point games against Boston, Memphis and Charlotte, 28 points and 14 rebounds at Chicago, etc.) and at times was every bit as good as Carmelo Anthony, who was making a late season push for MVP. You could’ve made a very reasonable argument that in the 2nd half of the season there wasn’t an Eastern Conference shooting guard better than J.R. Smith.

Con: The Knicks offense is built around three things clicking: Carmelo Anthony doing Carmelo Anthony things, J.R. Smith being able to score off the bench, and everyone hitting a barrage of three pointers. If two of the three were clicking the Knicks were going to be tough to beat. If all three were on, you might as well forget about it. As a LeBron fan, was I slightly concerned that the Knicks could possibly dethrone the defending champs? Yeah, there was a hint of fear there I suppose. But in retrospect it was foolish. Carmelo scored like we were accustomed to seeing, but needed more shots to do so. The Knicks didn’t shoot nearly as well from downtown as they did during the regular season. And Smith, who is slightly predisposed to falling apart, fell apart. After he delivered an elbow to the chin of Jason Terry that would make Jon Jones proud, Smith played egregiously poor in the remaining games of the postseason. He averaged 14 points on 33% shooting, and he had a handful of those aforementioned 3 for 14 shooting games. If that weren’t enough, there were rumors that Smith was out partying before playoff games with ex-girlfriend Rihanna. While an act like this would normally knock a players ranking down a few spots, bonus points were indeed given considering Earl’s ex-girlfriend is Rihanna.

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