By: Prad, THE New York Knicks Fan
JR Smith will most likely not wear a New York Knick uniform next year. Since JR Smith opted out of his contract, the Knicks need to fill his void if he decides not to re-sign. From a Knicks fan perspective: “give him everything he wants and literally match any offer. Without him we’re not getting close to advancing out of the first round.” Glen Grunwald’s perspective is probably completely different though. This is the harsh reality that Knick fans must face. The Knicks don’t exactly have too many good options at replacing the Knicks secondary scorer after Carmelo Anthony. Amar’e Stoudemire, Steve Novak, Ray Felton, and Iman Shumpert all come to mind as possible candidates. Although Tyson Chandler is one of the best defenders in the NBA, he is void of any offensive talent. His high field goal percentage is in part because every other shot he takes is a dunk. This is also assuming that Chris Copeland, the three point specialist, doesn’t re-sign. Last season, he produced 8.7 PPG but in a very limited capacity (15.4 MPG). No matter how inefficient JR Smith was in the postseason, this year’s regular season was his coming out party, averaging 18.3 points and 5.3 rebounds in his sixth man role. In order for the Knicks to even reach the Eastern Conference Semi Finals again, another Knick needs to step up and accept the challenge.
Amar’e Stoudemire’s Case
STAT was paid more than Tyson Chandler this year and about half a million less than Carmelo Anthony and is going to be paid more than either next year. It’s a combined total of $41,628,692 with another $23,410,988 coming his way during the 2014/2015 NBA season. Yet, injuries have derailed him the last couple season. He played in 29 games and has averaged 23.5 MPG and 14.2 PPG. His first season in New York, 2010 was his best when he averaged 25.3 points, 8.2 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks a game. His numbers were actually a little higher until the February of that season, when Carmelo came to the Knicks. Critics of the trade say that Melo and STAT can’t coexist and it has been proven in the last two and a half years. They have a point: Amar’e has averaged fewer numbers each subsequent season and his worst season in NY was last, 14.2 PPG and 5.0 RPG. But, what these seemingly knowledgeable critics haven’t accounted for, is Stoudemire’s limited play due to injuries. In the last two seasons, injuries have derailed his playing time to the point of him only playing 76 games and the latter 29 saw him not starting. So, it’s not a matter of them not coexisting but an alternate factor comes into play. If Stoudemire played 36 minutes last season, which he’s done a few times in his career, he could’ve scored around 21 PPG. But, because of his injuries, I don’t look to him performing and taking on a scoring burden next season. Stoudemire will most probably never be the same player that we saw in 2010.
Steve Novak’s Case
Novak is a great and an efficient three point shooter who led the league in three point efficiency a couple years ago. Beyond that he sucks. His defense is poor because of his athletic ability and qualities. He lacks speed, strength, agility, and toughness. He can’t pass or grab boards. He averages 1.9 RPG and 0.4 APG in 20.3 minutes. The rebounding stat is pretty heinous considering he is 6 foot 10. His scoring beyond the three is not that great. He only averages 6.6 points a game. He’ll be lucky if he could even score half of what the eventual secondary scorer will attain. It was my mistake for even putting him in this discussion.
Raymond Felton’s Case
I think Ray Felton is the most viable candidate to take on the job. He is the current starting point guard who touches the ball every possession down the court. He averaged 13.9 PPG and 5.5 APG this past season. He brings a lot of energy to the team, but might get too excited sometimes. He decides to take layups at inappropriate times when there might be two big men in the paint. Not surprisingly, he is one of the most blocked players on the team. This questionable play calling might be him channeling his inner JR Smith. His physical fitness was in much question a couple seasons ago but has improved tremendously this season and look for him to improve even more in agility and speed for this upcoming season. During his first stint with the Knicks, he averaged 17.1 points, 9.0 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game in 38.4 minutes a game. Unfortunately for him, Felton was a part of the massive Carmelo deal and got dealt to the Nuggets. Hopefully, he can put up these kind of numbers next season without a selfish JR Smith. He has proven though that he can thrive in a Knicks system and I look to him to step up to the challenge and have a much better season next year.
Iman Shumpert’s Case
I think he’s the most exciting prospect to become a bigger scorer and have a bigger role in the Knicks offseason. Everything about him excites me, his athleticism, ability to knock down threes (39.6%), perimeter defense, and high top fade. Shump came back from a torn ACL this year and played bench minutes (22.1 MPG) but will definitely become more productive next year. Yet, it’s ambiguous how much of an immediate improvement and impact we’ll see from him next season. But, he is definitely an integral part of the Knick future.
Melo clearly needs a partner to help the Knicks go deeper in the playoffs. We all know that he has his streaks that can span quarters, games, and even series. But, the other times when his shot isn’t falling or on the bench, he needs somebody to take over the offense. After all, he averaged 37 minutes a game this past season. The other time, worth almost a quarter was when JR Smith got a large chunk of his points and when he was the primary scorer in the second unit. I’m only hoping that another secondary scorer doesn’t have to be selected and the Knicks can hold on to Smith because of the Knicks’ lack of options.
All Stats and Pictures are from ESPN