J.R. Smith: Early Sixth Man of the Year Candidate

Anthony Gruppuso – US PRESSWIRE

Who’s to say that J.R. Smith can’t end up winning the coveted Sixth Man of the Year award?

Smith wanted nothing more than to be a starter for the New York Knicks coming into the season, but he needs to come off the bench. He brings energy and instant offense to an already deep second unit for New York, that includes 3PT assassin Steve Novak, Pablo Prigioni, and Kurt Thomas.

The Knicks defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 100-84 and moved to 2-0, and now have a full control of the Atlantic Division early in the season. Smith had 20 points, two assists, and led the team with nine rebounds. His 35 minutes were second only to Carmelo Anthony (27 points, 10-18).

In his days as a member of the Denver Nuggets, and even last season in New York, you never knew which J.R. Smith you would be seeing on a given night. It could be the one that lights up the other team and jump-starts the offensive attack, or it could be the one that shoots a lot of bad shots and turns the ball over. This season, it has been the first Smith that we have seen.

He has also committed to a determined defensive effort, along with Anthony, which is a huge credit to coach Mike Woodson.  In their days as teammates in Denver, they were offensive juggernauts, but defensive liabilities. This season, the two are showing their teammates that scoring is important, but championship teams have defensive roots.

J.R. Smith is my early pick as Sixth Man of the Year. If he continues to play like he has in the first two games of 2012-13, I’m sure he’d be happy to accept the award, despite his starter’s ambitions.

Follow Thomas Duffy on Twitter @TD_Knicks for articles, news, and all things NBA.

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