Statistical Analysis. Humor. Knicks.

Friday, August 29, 2014

2013 Report Card: JR Smith

PlayerID FLName Year Tm PER TS_P eFG_P PTS ORB TRB AST STL BLK TOV
0 J.R. Smith 2013 NYK 17.6 .522 .484 19.4 0.9 5.7 2.9 1.3 0.3 1.8
0.054 Leandro Barbosa 2010 PHO 14.0 .526 .485 19.1 0.5 3.2 2.9 1.1 0.5 2.1
0.058 Greg Ballard 1982 WSB 17.9 .519 .479 18.2 1.7 7.7 3.1 1.7 0.3 1.5
0.061 Michael Finley 2001 DAL 18.2 .521 .487 18.5 1.1 4.4 3.8 1.2 0.3 2.0
0.063 Juan Dixon 2006 POR 14.6 .516 .474 17.5 0.6 3.3 2.8 1.1 0.1 2.1
0.070 Harvey Grant 1993 WSB 16.1 .523 .488 18.1 1.8 5.6 2.8 1.0 0.6 1.2
0.073 Tim Legler 1994 DAL 16.1 .545 .487 17.9 1.0 3.5 3.3 1.4 0.4 1.6
0.075 Eddie House 2006 PHO 15.2 .512 .503 20.2 0.4 3.3 3.7 1.1 0.3 1.9
0.079 Jason Richardson 2008 CHA 18.4 .554 .524 20.4 0.9 5.0 2.9 1.3 0.7 1.9
0.080 Scott Wedman 1980 KCK 16.9 .541 .515 19.8 1.7 5.9 2.2 1.3 0.7 1.7
0.081 Josh Howard 2008 DAL 18.3 .534 .482 19.8 1.6 6.9 2.1 0.8 0.4 1.5
0.083 Junior Bridgeman 1981 MIL 17.1 .534 .489 21.0 1.3 4.7 3.8 1.4 0.5 2.4

Screen Shot 2013-08-21 at 10.58.53 PM

Who does that?

Who jackknifes a dude’s face in an elimination game on purpose?

Who tweets out close-up photos of supermodel asscheeks – so close you could scan the lingering handprints – in the middle of the night before a game?

Srsly?

Who shoots off-balance 22-footers with 21 seconds on the shot clock?

Who the shit dyes their hair blond, gets threatened with castration by his superior if that decision isn’t immediately reversed, and decides the smart thing to do is dye it red?

The fuck?

Who drives around a $450,000 four-wheeled Apocalypse with snails painted on the side? Fucking cartoon snails with shells made of money.

Hell, who has to deny having done that?

A knucklehead – that’s who.

Few players in modern NBA history have eschewed “the easy way” quite like JR Smith. He’s the kind of guy who stops in front of a moving airport walkway for 20 minutes trying to hail a terminal taxi before angrily walking the remaining distance on foot, wondering the whole time why everyone to his left is moving so much faster.

It’s entirely possible that he’s ordered delivery and driven to Domino’s 25 minutes later to pick it up.

That famed Forest Gump refrain was originally written as, “Life is like a box of JR Smiths – ARE YOU FUCKING SHITTING ME?”

During the offseason, he’ll spend five straight days mowing his lawn with toenail clippers, then ride his John Deere down to the mailbox because he’s too exhausted to walk.

On the court, he is basketball bacchanalia incarnate, a mindblowing melding of breathtaking talent, sporadic brilliance, and Homer Simpson. Every time Earl touches the ball is like a neural-physical Russian roulette – the feel of the sweaty leather can spark in his skull a rainbow of seamless free jazz cues, or a series of small strokes. Off-ball, the potential results can be equally garbled: “Wow, that was quite literally the perfect cut at the perfect time,” or, “Oh look, JR just rotated onto that cotton candy vendor.” If you handed him a sheet that explained in the simplest terms possible how he averages 45% on catch-and-shoot threes and 8% on attempts preempted by two or more dribbles, he’d probably ask you to call his cell instead, thinking you’d just handed him your digits.

“It’s easier that way.”

And yet, for all the Jekyll-Hyde bullshit, there are these two, very crucial facts: Smith is 1) 27; and 2) coming off a season that, while not the most efficient by many metrics, saw him tally a bevy of career-highs in spite of a sky-high usage rate.

Of course, even the process of getting there — to this plateau of bona fide second gun — had to be a bone-jarring, nosebleed-inducing rollercoaster nightmare: In seven games played January 10th and 27th, J.R. was 33-119 from the floor.

Thirty-three for one hundred and nineteen.

A few months later, he went 57-102 during a nine-day, six-game stretch in late March, the apex of a spring surge that helped net him the league’s Sixth Man of the Year Award.

How did J.R. Smith handle this newfound, heretofore largely elusive respect and notoriety? By flying completely off the rails in a month-long trainwreck of batshit shot selection, ill-advised late nights out, and – perhaps most pertinent – a nagging knee injury which Smith and the Knicks waited until two months after the season to officially address, because we are the Marx Brothers of basketball. In 11 playoff Games, JR registered a PER of 10, a TS% of 43% (including a whopping 27% from distance), an ORTG of 87 (EIGHTY-SEVEN!), and minus-0.5 offensive win shares. The French in 1918 had a better spring, and they were eating dirt clods with their own blood it them three meals a day.

Given his DeLorean-esque collapse, it’s easy to forget the blistering streaks and game-winners that peppered Smith’s intermittently impressive campaign. And that’s kind of understandable. It is, after all, something of a simple fact of human wiring that we’d consciously avoid mining YouTube clips of a 3-year-old thoroughbred just months after it reared up and kicked us right in the fucking mouth. Oh, those clips are there alright. In them, and in the interceding archived game footage, you’re reminded of both how far JR has come, and how bad the interspersed stupidity begins to look by scale; the more confident the pull-up lift and flawless right-hand extension, the weirder the defensive gambles. Which is why I stuck solely to the mixtapes. There’s a reason grains of salt are so delicious by the fistful.

Then there’s his defense and rebounding, two sectors where Smith quietly made some of his biggest impacts, and put up a bevy of career bests: His 2.7 defensive win shares marked a runaway high, while his TRB% (9.3) was second only to his 2011 season (9.4), despite garnering a higher DRB% (16.3 to 15.8) and an identical ORB% (2.7 in both seasons) — chalk it up to the added minutes, I guess. Sure, he could occasionally be found leaking out too early (SHAWN KEMP JOKE) or mysteriously rotating onto massive blocks of empty space. But it was also the case that Smith’s engaged defense and rebounding proved the clandestine turning points during tough stretches — stretches where he was, quite literally, the most trustworthy player on either end of the floor. No, that was not supposed to be “terrorworthy.”

With Smith’s status for the start of the season a matter of some speculation, many will be looking for another Knick guard – this one that rare, luminous lining around said playoff shit-cloud – to assert himself as the team’s two-gun of the future: Iman Shumpert. Granted, the two’s rolls have been, and remain, distinct: Shump will likely be an opening game starter, while Earl’s role as A-1 bench punch seems destined for career’s cementing – at least while he’s in the orange and blue. Still, the two’s positional redundancy, coupled with opposing career trajectories, could render this a rivalry in the making. How a still-recovering Smith handles his return, and possible initial minutes reduction, will be telling.

But – and this is wholly to his credit – Smith has never been one to fret over such things, anyway. For all his antacid antics, Earl seems to be, by just about any account that matters, a pretty good dude. He’s beloved by teammates and coaches, hoisted as a beacon by his adoring family, and a genuine cult favorite for a fan base that doesn’t easily forsake its heroes, however prone those heroes might be to fits and starts, disastrous disappearing acts, or “good morning” tweets at 4pm.

JR Smith is a knucklehead. But he’s our knucklehead, God dammit. And if there’s a family out there better equipped than Knick Knation to deal with the next of that kin, I ain’t heard of ‘em.

Grades (5 point scale):
Offense: 3
Defense: 4
Teamwork: 4
Rootability: 4
Performance/Expectations: 4
Final Grade: B

28 comments on “2013 Report Card: JR Smith

  1. SeeWhyDee77

    Great stuff! Superbly accurate description of our Earl. What would the franchise be without a knucklehead? From Mase to Spree(perceived but rehabilitated) to Starks (intermittently). We had Michael Ray, Nate, and so on an so forth. Gotta love JR though. Polarizing because he can captivate u with both a remarkable sequence on the floor and drive u nuts with the same sequence. Wildly entertaining off the court lol. But he’s also been a lifesaver for this team. Maybe if Woodson can reign him in like JVG did Spree, we just might see a more consistently reliable Earl like Spree was. Or maybe this is the best Earl we are gonna get. I think I’m fine either way. He is the only spontaneous player we have on this roster. It would, however, be nice to see him sacrifice and evolve like Spree did- as he could end up sharing on that second unit with Stat-Bargnani-Udrih. There’s a lot of offense on this roster. Woody’s got one heckuva job tryina figure out how to balance shots minutes and egos.

  2. Z-man

    Jim, are the grades just your personal opinion, or what you feel that Knicks fans generally feel?

    I, for one, would grade him down a notch on both teamwork and rootability. Unless you think that having a dreadfully low B-ball IQ doesn’t count against those categories.

  3. Nick C.

    You captured the essence of JR perfectly. Shouldn’t his rootability be a split grade? Loved the totally gratuitous Shawn Kemp joke.

  4. SeeWhyDee77

    Z-man: Jim, are the grades just your personal opinion, or what you feel that Knicks fans generally feel?

    I, for one, would grade him down a notch on both teamwork and rootability. Unless you think that having a dreadfully low B-ball IQ doesn’t count against those categories.

    Good point. I completely forgot in my comment about Spree and JR, about hoop IQ. That’s exactly what made Spree so great and able to still be very effective when he sacrificed his game at JVG’s behest. Spree had a much higher BBall IQ than Earl.

  5. SeeWhyDee77

    Sigh..I miss JVG. One thing’s for sure we will NEVER see Woodson clinging to an opposing player’s leg in an attempt to stop a fight lol. Imagine Woody at 6’5″ in that predicament..ha!

  6. SeeWhyDee77

    Brian Cronin: That whole JVG team was strong, BBall IQ-wise. Maybe not Childs. Everyone else, though!

    True. I think it’s more and more players at every level being allowed to get by on athletic gifts and not actually bein coached all the way up. The game is kinda watered down because of it. There’s a lot of athletic marvels in the league, but only a small percentage of them have good hoop IQ. That’s probably why JVG doesn’t wanna coach now lol. He’d be screaming way too much and getting even less sleep than he did in NY.

  7. lavor postell

    JR Smith is an idiot, but what I can always live with is his effort. Is it misguided and hurtful at times to the Knicks’ ultimate cause of winning games and a championship? Without a doubt, but I can live with a guy who is making those mistakes and not half assing it out there, while consistently showing up every night and playing through injuries without bitching, making excuses for himself or giving off negative vibes to teammates.

    A bball IQ like Sprewell’s would be nice though…

  8. KnickfaninNJ

    With JR last season, I am not sure his BB IQ was so bad. He changed his game and drove more because the coach wanted him to. His defense and rebounding were good. It’s true there were periods where he shot horribly, but it could easily have been the case the coach told him it was his job to shoot, in which case his BB IQ was not to blame for him taking shots. I am not say he’s great at BB IQ, but there are a lot of guys in the NBA whose job is to score and they don’t change their games for any coach and don’t defend or rebound as well. So I would say his BB IQ is average and shouldn’t affect his rating much.

  9. Z

    “JR Smith is a knucklehead. But he’s our knucklehead, God dammit.” J. Cavan

    See, I don’t accept this. Starks WAS our knucklehead. We found him, we kept him, and we dealt with him, taking both the good and the bad.

    JR Smith came to us because he was stuck in China for 9 months and when he got out his choices were limited and the Knicks were injury plagued. His arrival coincided to the day with the end of Linsanity. And other than acting like a “loveable-knucklehead”, he hasn’t actually done anything basketball-wise to endear himself to Knickfans. Nothing in the playoffs, and really not much of anything of any importance. He’s more Jamal Crawford than Starks (and Crawford, for all of his moments of wizardry, was never monikered “ours”).

    I think that selling JR Smith as “our knucklehead” is forcing a square peg into the round holes of Knick fan’s lobotomies. He’s not our knucklehead. He’s CAA’s knucklehead. MSG is just the place they found for him to play in.

  10. Jim Cavan Post author

    Z-man:
    Jim, are the grades just your personal opinion, or what you feel that Knicks fans generally feel?

    I, for one, would grade him down a notch on both teamwork and rootability. Unless you think that having a dreadfully low B-ball IQ doesn’t count against those categories.

    I put as much thought into the letter grade as I do what pants I’m going to where on a daily basis. Which is to say, A LOT OF THOUGHT.*

    * less than no thought

    Z: I think that selling JR Smith as “our knucklehead” is forcing a square peg into the round holes of Knick fan’s lobotomies. He’s not our knucklehead. He’s CAA’s knucklehead. MSG is just the place they found for him to play in.

    Fair enough.

  11. er

    Z:
    “JR Smith is a knucklehead. But he’s our knucklehead, God dammit.” J. Cavan

    See, I don’t accept this. Starks WAS our knucklehead. We found him, we kept him, and we dealt with him, taking both the good and the bad.

    JR Smith came to us because he was stuck in China for 9 months and when he got out his choices were limited and the Knicks were injury plagued. His arrival coincided to the day with the end of Linsanity. And other than acting like a “loveable-knucklehead”, he hasn’t actually done anything basketball-wise to endear himself to Knickfans. Nothing in the playoffs, and really not much of anything of any importance. He’s more Jamal Crawford than Starks (and Crawford, for all of his moments of wizardry, was never monikered “ours”).

    I think that selling JR Smith as “our knucklehead” is forcing a square peg into the round holes of Knick fan’s lobotomies. He’s not our knucklehead. He’s CAA’s knucklehead. MSG is just the place they found for him to play in.

    This is a bit harsh. JR is loved and hated at the same time by Knick fans. This can only be accomplished by someone who is “ours”. He has done quite a bit in reg season. Also can we have a day without the CAA conspiracy talk? THanks

  12. Brian Cronin

    A day without? Today’s literally the first day CAA has been mentioned here since July 26th.

  13. flossy

    er: This is a bit harsh. JR is loved and hated at the same time by Knick fans. This can only be accomplished by someone who is “ours”. He has done quite a bit in reg season. Also can we have a day without the CAA conspiracy talk? THanks

    It’s hardly a conspiracy theory to say that CAA seeks to park its clients in NYC. CAA represents several players on our roster, including the biggest star. Our coach was made to sign with CAA before receiving a contract extension. JR Smith was part of the CAA family before he was ever associated with this franchise. That’s just a fact that has nothing to do with whether or not you personally identify with him or think that the Knicks fan base as a whole considers him “ours.”

  14. Jim Cavan Post author

    I’m at least glad we’ve gone from over-analyzing silly letter grades to over-analyzing the definition of “our.”

    Progress!

  15. thenamestsam

    Nicely written Jim. A fitting tribute.

    I agree that it will be very interesting to see how JRs minutes are affected by (knock on wood) having a healthy Shump for the whole year and the potentially more crowded front court rotation. The issue of having too many guys in the rotation tends to work itself out (especially when a lot of them are injury prone) but I’d be surprised if JR is as central next year as he was this past year. Dealing with that effectively will be another test of his maturity.

    Also seems fitting to talk about JR on the day AI decided to hang them up for good. People can (and they certainly have) debate his actual value as a player as much as they want, but he’s one of the funnest, most entertaining players who I’ve ever watched play the game. Doesn’t feel like a typical retirement because he has already been gone so long, but still, he’ll be missed. Definitely one of those “You’ll tell your grandkids about him” players for me.

  16. d-mar

    I really hope that JR’s abysmal playoff performance was knee injury related. And I still say we take the Pacers series if JR just plays at a mediocre level, i.e. makes more than 30% of his shots.

    That being said, JR was a huge part of our successful regular season, given that on most nights he was our only source of offense other than Melo. And as someone else mentioned, you really can’t question his level of effort.

  17. Frank O.

    Jim: Nice work.

    JR is player mostly likely to infuriate.
    I wish they would take 10 points off his usage.

  18. dtrickey

    Pretty spot on report.

    Overall grade is fairly on the money, however I would have bumped up the offence a point. I know he had some really bad moments, but if you are looking at it as a whole then he was solid offensively. I get why he got the score he got, but I feel his good streaks probably outweighed the bad enough to get him a slightly higher score.

    I was really not a fan of the signing when we first got him when he got back from China. The Denever JR was just too much of a wildcard for my mind, and for some reason I had Starbury crazy lockeroom meltdowns in my mind. However, I have since dramatically changed my stance. Woodson and the vets have done a great job keeping him in line and focused. It feels as though he’s a much better team mate now than denver JR and it would be great if he could take another step in the maturity/leadership department……..he could probably do without the girlfriend arse pictures on twitter too (as nice as they are).

  19. Donnie Walsh

    dtrickey:
    Woodson and the vets have done a great job keeping him in line and focused.

    d-mar:
    you really can’t question his level of effort.

    Isn’t this the guy that was at the 40/40 club until closing the night before a matinee Game 1 vs the Pacers? A game that cost the Knicks home court? A game in which he shot 4-15?

    Isn’t this just one of many examples one can give that questions his level of effort? And did Woodson and the vets do that “great” of a job of keeping him in line and focused if he was completely out of line and unfocused at the only really important time of the season?

  20. Donnie Walsh

    flossy: It’s hardly a conspiracy theory to say that CAA seeks to park its clients in NYC… That’s just a fact that has nothing to do with whether or not you personally identify with him or think that the Knicks fan base as a whole considers him “ours.”

    Ha, yeah. There’s no conspiracy. Nothing nefarious or macabre going on. It’s all in plain sight. But their power is definitely over-rated. I’m a CAA client and I’m sure as hell not playing SG for the Knicks! (Or even the relative equivalent in my field).

    And, finally, nobody “owns” JR Smith. But he plays for corporations, not for individuals, so to love his antics because he’s “ours” seems misguided. Nobody gave a shit about Starks in 1991 when he put up essentially the exact same season in the exact same role as JR Smith did this year [ http://www.basketball-reference.com/play-index/pcm_finder.cgi?request=1&sum=0&p1=starkjo01&y1=1992&p2=smithjr01&y2=2013 ]. Knick fans adopted him as “their own” after the playoffs that year when he not only showed up, but acted as if losing was a personal insult, no matter how much better the competition.

  21. dtrickey

    Donnie Walsh:
    Isn’t this the guy that was at the 40/40 club until closing the night before a matinee Game 1 vs the Pacers? A game that cost the Knicks home court? A game in which he shot 4-15?

    Isn’t this just one of many examples one can give that questions his level of effort? And did Woodson and the vets do that “great” of a job of keeping him in line and focused if he was completely out of line and unfocused at the only really important time of the season?

    *For most of the season. I’ll admit that we did get a glimpse of classic JR, but for the better part of the season he was doing pretty good on the behaviour front. He even credited Woodsons tough love to his better play this year. It’s undeniably disappointing what happened (and more importantly when), however in comparison to other crap he’s done it’s arguably a minor incident. On the other side of that their is extra weight added because it happened during the post-season so I can appreciate that it is a big deal.

  22. danvt

    Thanks for that Jim. So much fun to read. Not too many folks in Vermont even know who JR is and yet he plays such an outsized role in my life. Nice that someone understands.

  23. callmened

    Ummm…what the hell are you saying?!?! I have no idea what many of youre jokes are refering to. Lol

Comments are closed.