The popular perception of New York Knicks sixth-man J.R. Smith is that he’s one of the best bench players in the league and a huge part of the Knicks’ success this season. After all, he is averaging the second-highest points per game for New York at 15.9. But in actuality, Smith really isn’t having that solid of a season.
Most of Smith’s reputation as an elite player this season comes from an array of shots that he’s hit in big moments for the Knicks. Those are obviously huge contributions to the Knicks, but that’s not enough to outweigh the other things that he’s done this year that haven’t been so good.
Smith is shooting just 39.7 percent from the field this season and just 33.8 percent from long-range. Despite those poor shooting percentages, Smith still averages the second-most shot attempts and three-point attempts per game for New York this season. That’s one of the reasons why he has a very average Player Efficiency Rating of 15.23.
Another reason his PER is average and that he isn’t as valuable as he might seem is his lack of production outside of his scoring. Smith is averaging just 2.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds per game. Those are pretty low averages for a guy who’s playing over 33 minutes per game and touches the ball as much as he does.
What’s crazy is that he’s even been in the conversation for the Sixth Man of the Year award this year. The player he’s been most compared to is Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers. But when comparing both of their seasons, it really shouldn’t even be a discussion at all.
Crawford averages 16.8 points, 2.6 assists and 1.7 rebounds per game and is shooting 43 percent from the field and 37 percent from three. His rebounding and assist numbers are lower than Smith’s, but he also plays four fewer minutes per game, shoots the ball way more efficiently and scores more points per game on fewer shots per game and, once again, in fewer minutes. Crawford has been a consistent offensive threat while Smith has been a high-volume shooter. There’s a definite and important difference there.
It might be unpopular to say, but Smith isn’t everything that many are making him out to be this season. He’s been inefficient and inconsistent, but has happened to hit some big shots. As a whole though, Smith has been less of a Sixth Man of the Year and more of a glorified gunner. It’s time that people started realizing that.