Part 4 of 14
In his five seasons in Denver, J.R. Smith has been one of the most controversial athletes to ever come to the Mile High City.
One second he electrifies you with eye-popping dunks and amazing shots, next he frustrates you with careless turnovers and his questionable shot selection – not to mention his immaturity on the bench and off the court.
Smith can be a headache for any coach, but at the same time he can undoubtedly single-handily win a game for any squad. And to Smith’s credit he has improved his shot selection and off the ball defense.
Despite his development, it is obviously that he has rubbed George Karl the wrong way and even with an improved attitude Karl still punished the 25-year-old for certain reasons. Smith didn’t play well in the playoff series against the Oklahoma City Thunder, but even when he did (Game’s 3 and 5) he saw limited minutes.
Smith has a chance to make a splash in free agency with his youth and talent. Don’t be surprised if teams like Chicago or New Orleans take a chance on the young star. The Bulls were rumored to be interested in Smith during the regular season and could use a scorer like Smith in the starting lineup or even off the bench. Of course the question is, is he a Tom Thibodeau type of player?
The Hornets also seem like a good fit for Smith. He was drafted by them in 2004 and played there for his first two seasons. He remains good friends with New Orleans’ star Chris Paul and was well received by the fans when he played there. He could be a valuable player for the Hornets, who lacked scoring out of the shooting guard position.
The problem for the Nuggets is if they lose Smith they need to replace his scoring spark off the bench:
- Jamal Crawford, Atlanta (FA) – If there is a player that is as or even more dangerous than Smith off the bench it is Crawford. In his first ever appearance in the playoffs Crawford has not only lit up the floor but has guided the Hawks to the second round. He leads Atlanta in the playoff scoring with 20. 5 points.
- Vince Carter, Phoenix (Team option) – Carter, a former All-Star, is past his prime. He no longer is known as Vinceanity and struggles with a variety of injuries and has has struggled to find a home as of late. He has played for three different teams in the past two years and has saw his scoring drop to only 14 a game. If Carter is willing to accept coming off the bench and playing limited minutes he could be a top sixth man off the bench.
- Ben Gordon, Detroit (Trade) - Gordon is one of the sharpest shooters in the League. He plays his best in clutch situations and, like Smith, has the ability to catch fire quickly. Gordon has also battled injuries after signing a massive contract in Detroit. But before that he was on the verge of being an All-Star in Chicago.
- Kevin Martin, Houston (Trade) – K-Mart is coming off of his best season of his career. He was injury-free for the first time in five years and averaged a career-high 23.5 points. He can take over a game offensively, but is still a liability on defense. Probably not a realistic chance the Nuggets get him.
- Shannon Brown, LA Lakers (Player option) – Brown is mostly known for his athletic ability. He has a tweener body and is an inconsistent shooter, but if given consistent minutes he’d be a valuable bench player.
- Michael Redd, Milwaukee (Free Agent) – Redd is the anti-Smith. He is a favorite of Karl and the vice versa. However, at 31, Redd has had to battle injuries over the last three seasons and is a below-average defender. But if his job is just shooting the ball there is no one else who is better.