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Harris DeckerIt’s getting old but this is going to become the question of the day until Mike Woodson makes his plans known. Will J.R. Smith play tonight against the Pacers?
After his benching, he played great for two games before reports surfaced that a confrontation with Woodson and arriving late to a team meeting got him benched in the loss to the Bobcats.
Against the Pacers, the Knicks will need everyone to be hitting their shots. They are facing a team that plays smothering defense, giving up an NBA low 88.1 points per game. They’re going to need all hands on deck and that includes a focused Smith.
If Smith is not focused, then he might as well not play. In games where he’s been locked in, he’s been great this year, shooting for a high percentage and passing effectively. When I say “passing effectively,” I’m really just saying passing the ball. He hasn’t done much of it this year and that must improve.
Smith records only 40.2 passes per game, ranked 76th among players that play more than 32 minute per game and that have played in at least 31 games (regulars). That’s just crazy for a guard. He passes 36.9 times, less per game than league leading Kemba Walker (point guard) and is passing about as much as Dwight Howard (center) and Paul Millsap (power forward).
Not only is he a bad passer, he’s not recording assists on the passes he makes. He records fewer passes than almost any guard in the NBA and is currently ranked No. 16 in assists among shooting guards with just 3.1 per game. Goran Dragic is the league leader with 6 APG.
Here’s some perspective on Smith. Lance Stephenson is one of the few shooting guards that passes less than Smith per game (39.6 passes per game). What’s different is that Stephenson is ranked 5th in the league in assists at shooting guard with 5.2 and 12 points created from assists per game. Smith is creating just 7.7 points per game from his assists.
Truth is, Smith will always be a shoot first, pass second guard. But when he’s struggling and taking shots from what is basically half court, he needs to look to pass more. We’ve seen it from Carmelo Anthony, passing the ball more to Amare Stoudemire in the post and the same recipe could lead to success for Smith.