JR Smith signed a four year deal worth $24.7 million to stay in New York with the Knicks. The fourth and final year of the contract he signed includes a player option, which when exercised is $7 million. The Sixth Man of the Year had a career year last season when he averaged 18.1 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, both career highs. He only made $2.8 million during his breakout season though. The Knicks owned his early bird rights and were offering him the maximum that they could. Smith was definitely getting offers from other teams but was not offered as much as New York offered him. This is in part to his lackluster performance during the postseason. He shot an inefficient 33.1% from the field and 27.3% from the 3-point arc. His inconsistency coupled with his desire to chuck up a large volume of shots made some teams shy away during this offseason. However, Coach Mike Woodson allows him to be as aggressive as he wants as he leads the reserves. He thrives in an environment where he is allowed to be the primary scorer in a unit.
The landscape of the team will change next year though. JR Smith is searching for a job in the starting lineup next season. But, he might not be as effective because Carmelo Anthony takes the bulk of shots for the Knicks’ starting unit. He might be constrained in the number of shots he takes when Melo is on the floor. This will lower his overall points averages, but I look for him to become more efficient and intelligent with his shot decisions. This year, he put up many low probability shots because he was supposed to take a majority of the shots when the starting lineup was on the bench. With Melo on the floor, he will want his shot attempts to count and not simply be wasted.
This season, Smith didn’t start in any of the 80 games he played in, but played starter minutes, 33.5, which is also a career high. The Knicks second unit might not be as aggressive next year with no viable consistent scorer unless Amar’e Stoudemire or Andrea Bargnani comes off and leads the bench. But, this is very likely because only one of the power forwards can start and Carmelo can’t move to any guard position. The Knicks can’t rely on them for the duration of a full season since both of them have had a difficult time staying healthy in the last couple of seasons. I thought that the Knicks drafted Tim Hardaway Jr. because they believed that Smith would leave the Big Apple. Perhaps Hardaway could be a major factor on the bench and hover around the 25 minutes range each game. Hardaway needs a bit more development in creating his own shot before he can crack the starting lineup but he can definitely produce solid numbers on the bench until then. Him along with an exciting Iman Shumpert makes the Knicks’ bench more youthful and legitimate.
Ultimately, JR Smith made a smart move by signing with the Knicks because he doesn’t necessarily do well in other systems and wouldn’t have gotten as much money as he did because of his noted inconsistency.
All Statistics and Pictures from ESPN