The no brainer pick of 2013 should be Jr. Smith. That’s not favoritism or bias on my part. The Knicks are having their best season since the early 90s. Without Jr. Smith, the Knicks are likely a 5 or 6 seed in the East with all of the injury problems they’ve had to overcome. However, the 6th man race may not be as cut and dry as it was last year when James Harden was basically unanimous. When you look at win shares and overall production, there are guys who are just as important to their respective teams as Smith is to the Knicks.
For starters, Jr. Smith has more than tripled his total points and minutes played from last season. Over 36 minutes per game, he’s averaging 19.5 points per game. For the month of April, he’s averaging 23 points in 33 minutes played. In the wins share column, when he shoots better than 40% overall, the Knicks are difficult to beat. I’ve said a few times on Twitter that the relationship Coach Mike Woodson and Smith have is sometimes annoying to watch. Woodson is far more confrontational than George Karl was and he has no qualms about getting on Smith when he’s making bonehead fouls and silly turnovers. But if you look at the body of improvement he’s shown, perhaps the in-your-face style is what Smith needed to pull out this high caliber of play.
What a difference having an all Star makes? Like the Knicks, the Clippers are having their best season in ages. Paul is 1 of those special types of point guards that is a pass-first floor leader. He makes his teammates better by being a great distributor and his ability to see the floor at all times. The point guard tandem of Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford were great substitutes when Paul was out. But Jamal Crawford’s effectiveness off the bench has given the Clippers that edge. Averaging just under 30 minutes per game, Crawford is average 16.5 points per game for the season. Even at 33, he often poses a match up problem with his speed and quickness on the dribble. His consistency will be key heading into the 2nd round of the playoffs.
I mentioned how outstanding Steph Curry has been playing since the All Star break. But in the same breath, you have to mention Jarrett Jack. The injury to Brandon Rush put a lot of pressure on Jack to be able to step as a 2nd unit leader. In fact, the Warriors don’t have much of a bench to speak of outside of Jack and maybe Draymond Green. As expected, the majority of his statistics have improved since last year. For his 30 minutes per game, Jack is averaging 13 points per game. That likely seems modest compared to the level of play Jr. Smith and Jamal Crawford. However, the Warriors benefited greatly from Steph Curry being healthy. So in many of the games, the modesty of Jack’s box scores was because he was playing alongside of Curry instead of as a sub.
I’m torn between Wilson Chandler and Corey Brewer as the last contender on my list. Denver has always protected home (37-3 this year). They’ve remained a very good team since the Melo trade. For the Knicks, Wilson Chandler was a decent contributor. Even with Andre Iguodala and Danilo Gallinari as starters, Brewer and Chandler each got 20+ minutes as a season average. They averaged almost same amount of points, with Chandler being the better defender. The stark contrast between these 2 is Chandler is more versatile, while Brewer is more of a mid-range type of 2 guy. It’s a coin toss.
It doesn’t make any sense that Jr. Smith wouldn’t win this year. But this is the NBA. Snubs happen all the time. Who do you think will win?