Chasing Down The Latest NBA News
J.R. Smith has safely landed on American soil after being rescued from China by a team of Army Rangers and after tantalizing the world by placing his potential NBA destinations on his Twitter page, Yahoo! Sports is reporting that Smith is going to join his former Denver Nuggets teammate Carmelo Anthony with the New York Knicks. Though he would have had bigger roles for the two Los Angeles teams that both wanted him, Smith will be getting $1.8 million from New York this year, which is more than the Clippers and Lakers could offer him.
The popular opinion seems to be against this signing because everyone wants Jeremy Lin to keep playing at a high level. Knick fans are already wary of Carmelo Anthony coming back so adding another gunner that is not afraid to shoot five feet beyond the three-point line only adds another player that will take the ball out of Lin’s hands. It’s not a baseless concern. In addition to playing with an ISO-centric player like Carmelo, pretty much every point guard Smith played with in Denver had no conscience when it came to jacking up shots (Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups) so he’s used to trying to get his points as soon as he touches the ball because he didn’t expect to get it back.
Playing with Lin should change that, though, as he’s proven that he can find the perfect balance between scoring and passing. If Smith manages to be a bit more team friendly, then this deal will turn out very well for the Knicks.
Hit the jump for the rest of Mark’s piece…
With the emergence of Lin, the Knicks have begun to develop some nice roster symmetry. Everybody has enjoyed saying how poorly a job the Knicks did by putting together two ball-stoppers like Carmelo and Amare but we’ve yet to see how that duo plays with a real point guard running the offense. The last thing I’d call Chauncey Billups is a true point guard, Toney Douglas is more of a spot-up shooter than someone your want handling the ball and Iman Shumpert is an off-ball guard. Lin has scored a ton during the Knicks current streak but when you watch him he doesn’t look like a ballhog. It’s clear that Lin can be a better distributor than any point guard the Knicks have played alongside of Carmelo and Amare and having a player that is willing to move it around may infect them like it has the rest of the Knicks while they were out.
Now throw in an additional scorer that can attack the basket and get hot from deep carrying the bench unit in Smith and the Knicks rotation suddenly becomes one of the best in the East. The starting unit of Lin, Landry Fields, Carmelo Anthony, Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler can stay the same (adding Smith to that unit would be wasting all of their creators on one unit) and their second unit (for the playoffs when everyone is healthy) can be Baron Davis, Smith, Bill Walker/Steve Novak, and Jared Jeffries/Josh Harrellson at forward/center (Amare or Chandler will likely holdover with the second unit when the other starters go out).
The two biggest losers with Smith coming in (assuming Davis comes back and can contribute at a 17 PER-ish level) are Toney Douglas and Iman Shumpert. Douglas’ shooting slump is the reason Lin got a shot in the first place and even though he and Shumpert have been getting a fair amount of run in two-point guard units with Smith in town and Davis back, that leaves very few minutes (if any) at the guard spots for Douglas and Shumpert to take. I do think both could play some kind of a role if Douglas can snap out of his funk. Shumpert is most valuable in my mind. We saw the other night how good a defender he can be and for a team with a couple of sieves on the frontline I can see D’Antoni going with Shumpert in offense/defense switches when the game is on the line.
For a team that didn’t look to have much depth early on this year the Knicks can go 11-deep on any night with the recent additions of Lin and Smith and the future additions of Davis and Harrellson. And when you look at those 11 players, there is a nice balance in the roles they play:
Creators: Lin, Carmelo, Amare, Davis
Shooters/Slashers: Smith, Fields, Walker, Harrellson
Defensive specialists: Shumpert, Jeffries, Chandler
So long as Lin and Davis can orchestrate the offense and minimize the amount of Carmelo/Amare isolations as best as possible, this is a team with a good amount of role players, natural scorers and even a decent defensive cast. Before the year began I picked the Knicks to upset the Miami Heat in the post-season this year because they had two lethal scorers and a Tyson Chandler-anchored defense. In a perfect world, the Carmelo-Amare dynamic could match Terry-Nowitzki and Chandler could prevent Wade and James from getting to the basket.
After their poor start, this seemed foolish, but the presence of a guy like Lin to play the Jason Kidd/Steve Nash role has re-established my faith in the Knicks ability to win the post-season. With a true point guard the Knicks potential is extremely high and the addition of J.R. Smith only gives a New York team that seemed poor offensively another player that can put the ball in the hoop. Of course, we haven’t seen Lin play a game with Carmelo and Amare yet, so this all may too optimistic. But if Lin can incorporate all of these ISO-centric players into an offense that thrives on quick shots off ball movement, then this team can compete in the Eastern Conference.
If I had told you that a week ago you would have thought I was Lin-sane.