Despite the presence of stars LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, Deron Williams, and even our own Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith was able to outplay each one of them and stand out among the pack as the NBA Eastern Conference Player of the Week. While it may not sound like much of an achievement, it speaks great volumes to J.R.’s superior style of play as of late where he has been attacking the basket and earning countless trips to the free throw line. Not often does a non-superstar come away with this weekly award.
The Knicks won all 4 of their games during the week of March 24-31, first facing the rival Celtics in Boston followed by 3 home games against the Grizzlies, Bobcats and Celtics yet again. During the first 3 games, Smith was unstoppable from an offensive standpoint, scoring 30 or more points in each contest. A bench player has not accomplished such a feat since 1990 when Ricky Pierce scored 30 or more in 3 straight games for the Milwaukee Bucks. Even in the final game of the week against the Celtics in New York where Smith had a cold shooting night, he still found ways to contribute, finishing with 12 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals in addition to his 15 points. He could’ve finished with more points, but he missed a few too many free throws, undoubtedly infuriating his mother.
When Smith is playing smart offensively, the Knicks are a completely different team. They are so much better when Smith is aggressively attacking the basket as opposed to when he spots up repeatedly for contested jumpers. The Knicks are already loaded with spot up shooters so it’s extremely important to have another paint attacker to go along with Carmelo Anthony. Smith’s post game has also helped ease the pain of Amar’e Stoudemire’s injury, since he proved to be a dominant low post scorer in the brief 29 games he was able to suit up. Smith averaged 29.8 PPG, 7.0 RPG, and 1.5 SPG during his award winning week. Let’s hope that Smith continues his relentless attack to the basket, because it will provide a major impact come playoff time.