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Is JR Smith Having a Bad Year or Unlucky: Part 3 Requiem for a Friend

Welcome to the Third an Final installment of my JR Smith "Good" or "Unlucky" series. Part one is here. Part two is here. I originally was going to write this piece around New Years, but life got in the way, and JR Smith decided to implode. There was originally going to be 4 pieces too, but I decided to go in a different direction for the final one. This piece requires music. Click here for it.

JR Smith is one of the most infuriating players in the NBA. He's a pure shooter, a guy that defies logic, and had the best year of his career last year. He's decided to follow it up with this. According to basketball reference (since the introduction of the 3 point line) only 3 guards have had seasons where they play more than 30 minutes per game and take more than 11 shots per game, but shoot less than 37% from the field.

As of right now, J.R. Smith has more shots than points. That alone is indefensible.

As for his shot selection, these numbers are from right before New Years Eve so take them with a grain of salt, but JR has been unguarded 47% of the time on rhythm jumpers, where as in 2012-13 that number was 54%. 53% of the jumpers JR takes he is guarded. This is partially a product of the system the Knicks run, where JR doesn't pass out of these contested shots, and the Knicks haven't been moving the ball as much as a hole.

JR's best shot is when he shoots off the catch and shoot. The disparity between guarded and unguarded JR off the catch and shoot is striking. JR is shooting 52% netting 1.54 points per shot on unguarded catch and shoots, and 29% netting .839 points per shot when he is guarded. He has taken slightly more guarded catch and shoots vs. unguarded.

JR is willing to take these shots because he was converting them much better last year (he netted .986 points per shot on guarded catch and shoots last year shooting 34%).

According to SportVU JR Smith is 97th in the NBA in total assists. Guys like Zach Randolph and Anderson Varejao have more total assists than him. JR creates 7.3 points per game off assists which is 87th in the NBA. His inability to pass out of contested shots, is killing this team.

I'd like to add that JR Smith is shooting 26% off the dribble, compared to 37% last year. Holy shit. That should improve, but wow.

The following numbers not from SportVU were provided by Chris Herring. Chris is the best and I love him. Thank you Chris. I wanted to just take the time to give you credit for the help and support you gave me when I told you what I was writing about.

At times last year, when the offense was out of sync, having JR Smith come an take some ill advised jumpers that were falling forced teams to double him, which would lead to ball movement and the restoration of the harmonious offense of yesteryear. Having a player like that on your team to mix things up help keeps defenses on their toes, which would allow the Knicks to flourish offensively. This year that player has a -.01 Win Share on offense through 34 games according to basketball reference. When he is on the floor the Knicks are generating 96 points per 100 possessions. There is no defense anymore. JR Smith is a problem, and there is no just one solution for this problem. I don't even know if I want to look into them because this team is just so defeating.

And This is where I reach my final point of this series: I hate having to write these. Why? Because JR Smith is probably my favorite basketball player in the NBA. Growing up I was always the weird kid that loved sports, but couldn't play basketball and football because I was really, really short and even skinnier. I also was a giant nerd. I was the one still playing Pokemon in 7th and 8th grade playing soccer (well everyone in New Jersey played soccer) and pouring over New York Times Box Scores while I couldn't fit in with most of the people around me. I always loved watching JR Smith because he literally did not give a shit. He did whatever he wanted and forced people to accept him for who he was. While that's probably bad for an NBA team (as the Knicks are seeing this year), it was something I always wish I could do. I was picked on a lot, until high school when I turned out to be a pretty fast runner for a small school in New Jersey. I learned to tune out everyone around me and just enjoy what I liked enjoying. Eventually I went to college found a different sport channel my excess energy into, and kind of took up a JR Smith mentality. I wasn't trying to make friends (well I was) but I always enjoyed acting ridiculously trying to make people laugh and get out of their comfort zones. I decided I wasn't going to have a comfort zone and if you didn't like that then whatever. That's why I loved when the Knicks signed JR Smith, and that's why I loved when he was so successful.

Hopefully JR's numbers improve, but a lower usage percentage, a very low eFG% and TS% combined with an assist rate right around career average means either JR is going to take more shots and make them (unlikely) or this is what we're going to get all season. So JR Smith is both unlucky and bad, but the bad is compounded by the bad luck, and if that luck reverses a little bit he's still going to be bad. Well this was depressing. Go Knicks.

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