Surprised by J.R. Smith’s Strong Start?

At 3-0, the Knicks have been the biggest surprise of this young NBA season. 

But the biggest surprise within the biggest surprise may be this: J.R. Smith has been one of New York’s best all around players early on. 

Let that sink in for a second. 

J.R. Smith, the same guy who’s admittedly never met a shot he didn’t like and has driven coaches nuts with his decision-making, has been one of the Knicks’ best and most efficient players. 

He’s second on the team in Player Efficiency Rating, a metric used by ESPN’s John Hollinger to measure a player’s per-minute performance. 

Through three games, Smith’s PER is 20.3, second only to Carmelo Anthony‘s 24.0. 

Last year, Smith’s first in New York, he turned in a 15.27 PER. The league average in 2011-12 was 13.50.

Ian Begley, ESPN New York

Brian DiMenna

It’s funny, I feel similarly to J.R. Smith’s strong start that I do about the Knicks’. I mean, I’m pleased by it, certainly wouldn’t have bet my life on it — particularly the level of dominance in the three wins — but I also don’t think either occurrence is the BIGGEST SURPRISE IN THE NBA! Or, in other words, I’m not absolutely floored by the idea that the Knicks have played three quality games in a row.

If the Knicks started this season 20-0 or something we might say that it’s certainly the biggest surprise of the young season, but two wins against the Sixers doesn’t exactly have me slack-jawed in disbelief saying, “My heavens, how hath we pulled of this miraculous feat!?”

As for Smith, I’ve certainly waffled back and forth about loving or hating him about 6,000 times already, and expect a few thousand more or so such wafflings in the future, but there’s also no doubt the guy is a very talented player so the fact he’s played three competent games in succession does not leave me scrambling for answers as to how this can possibly be or wondering if his play is, in fact, the biggest surprise within a bigger surprise lost within an even larger and more surprising surprise. Surprise!

It does serve as a reminder of just how down on the Knicks large portions of the media were prior to the season that a 3-0 start is seen as some sort of Hoosiers underdog story. I mean, as equally overboard as it would be to start assuming the Knicks are championship contenders, it’s also a little silly to pretend we’re witnessing some kind of unthinkable revelation.

It’s a good start is all. Sure beats the alternative.

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