When the New York Knicks signed J.R. Smith this season, it seemed like a great way to add depth to a roster that didn't have a deep bench. What it may have turned into though, is one of the best free agent signings of the past year.
For the 2011-12 NBA season, the Knicks are paying Smith a pro-rated salary of just under $2.4 million. Smith has a player option of $2.5 million to return for next year and it would turn out really nice if he accepted that extra season.
With injuries taking their toll on the current roster, Smith has seen his minutes and leadership role with the team increase almost nightly. That was certainly the case on Tuesday night (April 17) against the Boston Celtics. Before halftime even hit, Smith had connected on 7 three-pointers to give the Knicks a huge 72-53 lead over the team most-likely to win the Atlantic division this year.
Smith finished his night against the Celtics with 25 points, 6 assists, 4 rebounds and a steal, cementing his role as the sixth man for this Knicks team. He absolutely torched one of the best defensive teams in the league and showed why there is still a lot of hope in New York that the Knicks could pull off a first round upset in the 2012 NBA Playoffs.
Through just 29 games with the Knicks this season, Smith is averaging 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. There were times after he signed with the team that it seemed like the coaches didn't know how to use him, but these past few games have really shown what he can do. He has always had the reputation of being a great streak shooter and the streak that he is currently on is really helping out the team.
If Smith can put together more games like he had against the Celtics on April 17, he is going to turn into the free agent steal of the past year. He is providing a ton of value for the Knicks, gives the team a perfect option from long-range late in games and doesn't need anyone else to help create a shot. Here's to hoping he can carry that straight into the playoffs against one of the best teams in the Eastern Conference.
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*Ryan Christopher DeVault is a fan of the New York Knicks that has followed the team since the days John Starks, Charles Oakley, and Anthony Mason instilled their defensive will on the rest of the league.
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