Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
So the other night Chauncey Billups goes down with an ACL injury that will end his season this year. Predictably the internet lights itself on fire wondering what in the world the new-look Los Angeles Clippers are going to do to replace Mr. Big Shot, who was essentially their starting two-guard, and one of rumors that was flung around was JR Smith. This promptly conjured wonderful images of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin sneaking into China Black-Ops style to rescue JR in the dead of night. After I started writing the script for what would likely be next summer’s biggest blockbuster, the more pertinent question hit me.
Is the Clippers signing JR Smith even a good idea?
It is vexing, no doubt. So being the astute columnist that I am, I did what any good writer would do. I hit up HoopData to check and see how the stats lined up. Below are the findings.
The numbers certainly seem to line up. Chauncey is a free throw shooter of nearly legendary proportions, so of course you lose something there. But JR has a higher overall FG percentage, something that could certainly climb higher if you take the Chris Paul factor into account.
Chauncey was also throwing more assists, an indication of his natural point guard abilities certainly. Even with the increased minutes, I expect JR will not catch him in this area, but honestly, that’s fine. The only real reason that Billups was playing in that slot in the first place was that the Clippers lacked a two guard with reliable scoring punch. And one thing that you can’t argue with is that JR has scoring punch in spades when he’s on. They don’t need JR playing point, they already have Mo Williams on the depth chart behind Paul, and he is having a lights out season so far.
Hit the jump for the rest of Jordan’s piece…
So the numbers make sense, but basketball isn’t played on a stat sheet. Chauncey Billups was a calming, veteran presence, something that is of course invaluable to a team that is still trying to find its way together after being hastily constructed earlier this season. In many ways, his injury is a spiritual wound just as much as it is a basketball one. And can JR Smith fill that void?
Here is where I would love to tell you that during his time in China, JR has had a personal revelation, and is no longer the me-first ball stopping diva he once was. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. The video in that link describes JR in China asking for larger quarters (although that was for his family) and also a personal chef. Maybe Chinese food gets tiring after a while?
Now to be honest with you I have no idea what JR Smith is going through in China, what his living conditions are, or what his mental state is. I’ve never been to China, and analyzing those questions is definitely best left to better people than I. What I do know is this: JR has often been considered a bit of a coaching problem throughout his career. It worries a lot of people that he would be coming to a Clippers team led by none other than Mr. Blank Stare himself, Vinny Del Negro. I think this particular concern may not be as big a concern as you may think. Ask yourself this: Vinny may be named the coach, but who in that locker room likely commands the most respect?
I arrived at the same conclusion that many of you probably did: Chris Paul. Paul immediately arrived in LA with a coach-on-the-floor attitude, guiding the ship in Clipperland, and has a group that missed the playoffs looking like a team that is able to beat anyone on any given night. His leadership and passing have proven infectious, and if you don’t believe that, then the only logical reason for that is you haven’t watched any Clip games this year. It’s often said that teams take on the personality of their best player, and so far, Paul is proving that theory.
In JR’s case it may be worth noting that the last team JR played on was the Denver Nuggets, whose best player (pre-trade, of course) was Carmelo Anthony. So maybe it’s no small wonder that JR looked to score almost exclusively when touching the ball. Will playing alongside Paul lead to a renaissance in JR’s game, making him realize his immense talents and evolve into the next great shooting guard? Probably not. Will playing with the best point guard on the planet, nay, the #PointGod himself have a positive effect on JR’s game? The long list of players that have had above average seasons on Paul led teams indicates it will.
But I’m even prepared to acknowledge the possibility that it won’t. What do you do then? Well I’ll tell you, since you asked so politely. Picture, if you will, a night in April. The Clips are down. Chris Paul is carrying the offense. Blake is settling for too many jumpers. Caron Butler has picked up early fouls. Paul has to come out for a breather, but *GASP* Mo Williams can’t seem to buy a bucket either. The offense is drowning and Vinny Del Negro is forced to look at end of the bench and put in this man:
JR Smith comes in and drops several quick buckets and gets the offense juiced up faster than you can cay “Iconic Scene From Ace Ventura 2.” He can be that guy, right? I think so. In fact I’ll go a step further. I think JR Smith can absolutely be the Clipper’s Weapon X. The guy who comes into the game When All Else Has Gone Totally Wrong. And that is your worst case scenario.
I’ll be honest with you guys. I could be completely incorrect here. JR Smith could be a total head case that a young team like the Clippers should never gamble on. I could be completely biased because I love JR’s definitely-going-nuclear-either-in-a-bad-way-or-a-good-way style of play. But I feel that everything I just told you could be an absolute reality.
Sir Charles Barkley said it (and then had it remixed in one of my favorite commercials ever) best, kids. “I could be wrong, BUT I DOUBT IT.”
Jordan Akin spent an inordinate amount of time giggling to himself when he originally drew the parallel between JR Smith and the small dude from Ace Ventura. You can question round ball logic (or his admittedly questionable taste in movies) on Twitter @jakin1013, or via email at email@example.com .
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