J.R. Smith played in 80 games for the New York Knicks this year and never started once. No matter who was injured, Smith came off the bench.
Before the season started, Smith told coach Mike Woodson that he should be starting, but Woodson stood firm.
The decision paid off.
Today J.R. Smith is being rewarded for accepting his role as a non-starter, winning the KIA Sixth Man of the Year award.
Smith thrived all season coming off the bench. He still managed to play 33.5 minutes and score 18.1 points per game, good enough for second on the team behind NBA scoring champion Carmelo Anthony. Smith also added 5.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game.
Smith had to beat out some pretty tough competition for the award. Los Angeles Clippers guard Jamal Crawford, Boston Celtics forward Jeff Green and several others all put in some pretty solid seasons, but in the end Smith was surely the most impressive.
The Knicks have put together a great season with two guys who truly LOVE to shoot the ball. You would think that might cause some problems but when both Smith and Anthony are on their game, New York looks pretty unbeatable.
Smith probably would not have won the award if it were not for a strong push in the latter part of the season. During the Knicks’ 13-game winning streak that went from March to April, Smith averaged 23.2 points per game and scored over 30 in three straight games. He picked up the slack for the team when Anthony missed some time with injury and is a big reason why the Knicks were able to secure the second seed in the Eastern Conference.
Now Smith and the Knicks have to focus on getting past the Boston Celtics in their first-round playoff series. If they can do that, they have looming matchups with the Indiana Pacers (most likely) and Miami Heat (most likely). Smith is going to be a big part of New York’s success from here on out, but you can bet, no matter what happens, he’ll still be coming off the bench.