How much is J.R. Smith worth?

» August 6, 2008 7:06 PM | By Brandon Hoffman

Last week, Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com reported that the Cleveland Cavaliers were talking with the Denver Nuggets about a trade for J.R. Smith.  That rumor was quickly dismissed by the Rocky Mountain News, but it brought up the question of Smith’s worth.

Monta Ellis inked a six-year, $67 million dollar contract recently.  Andre Iguodola is reportedly seeking a six-year, $75 million dollar deal.

How does Smith stack up to those two shooting guards?

Smith was drafted out of high school with the 18th pick of the 2004 NBA Draft and is still two months shy of his 23rd birthday.  At 6-6, 222 pounds he’s a prototypical shooting guard.  J.R.’s range extends to the 3-point line (40%), he can penetrate to his left or right, stop and pop, and finish at the basket.

Playing behind Allen Iverson, Smith averaged 12.3 points in 19.2 minutes per game last season.  Per 36 minutes, Smith averaged 23 points on 46% from the field.  J.R. responded to increased minutes in the playoffs (27.0 MP) by putting up 18.3 points per game on 54% from the field against the eventual Western Conference champion Los Angeles Lakers.  A complete turnaround from the 2007 playoffs where he was benched for inconsistency against the Spurs.

Monta Ellis averaged 20.2 points per game on 53% from the field, and 37.9 minutes per game.  Ellis shot a ridiculously high percentage from the field, but is an inferior 3-point shooter (23%) and is too trigger happy to be a point guard and too small to play shooting guard.

Ellis averages more steals, but Smith is a much better man-to-man and helpside defender.

Andre Iguodala led the Sixers with an average of 19.9 points per game last year.  Iguodala also grabbed 5.4 rebounds, and dished out 4.8 assists in 39.5 minutes of playing time.  Andre averaged 1.9 steals per game and is the best defender of the three.  But his offensive skill set is inadequate.  He can’t shoot off the dribble, nor does he possess range from beyond the 3-point line.  Iguadola production are a reflection of his minutes and the lack of offensive talent surrounding him in Philly.

Smith is 22, Ellis is 22, and Iguodala is 24.  All three players have bright futures.

But all things considered (offense, defense, potential), I’d take Smith over Ellis or Iguodala.

Free agency is all about market value.  And market value was established by Monta Ellis.

If Ellis is worth $11 million per season, the Nuggets would be wise to match any offer that’s comparable.  If they can sign Smith to a five-year deal for the mid-level exception (starting at $5.585 million per season), that would be an absolute steal.  General Manager Mark Warkentien could place that transaction next to the only brightspot of his tenure — trading for J.R. Smith.


9 Responses to “How much is J.R. Smith worth?”

  1. xphoenix87 Says:

    There’s absolutely no way I would pay J.R. Smith 10 mil a year at this point in his career. Something you left out of your analysis is that Smith has perpetually been in the doghouse of both the coaches he’s played for. He also doesn’t bring much more to the table than his shooting stroke. He’s not a great rebounder or passer, and he doesn’t have the ability to consistently get into the lane and go to the free throw line like the other two guys do. He’s not a very good defender; he has potential to be, but he seems to have little desire to do anything but jump passing lanes. There’s a reason Smith only played 20 minutes a game in Denver, despite his primary competition being Anthony Carter. He’s flaky. He doesn’t bring consistent effort, and he has very little impact on a game if his shot isn’t falling. I’d give him the mid-level and maybe a little more, but to me he isn’t worth it until he proves that he’s willing to grow up and work hard.

    Iguadola is, I think, clearly the best of these three players. He’s an above-average ball-handler, he passes the ball extremely well for his position, he can play either wing position, he’s an explosive finisher, he does damage on the boards, and he’s approaching elite status as a defender. The only thing preventing him from being a star is his perimeter shot, and that has rapidly improved over the last few years.

    Ellis I would probably pay somewhere in the 6-7 mil range, though more if I had a big point guard who could cross-match on defense. Ellis is a ridiculously efficient player because he plays within himself and is so good at getting high-percentage shots. He’s almost automatic with his mid-range jumper off the dribble, and he’s a very good finisher in the paint. He’s also a great transition player because of his ridiculous speed. The only worry with Ellis is his height. If he can transition to point guard or if you can pair him with a bigger point guard, he’s a fantastic player.

    Both Iguadola and Ellis have less risk associated with them than Smith. They’ve both been more dependable and more mature already in their careers.

  2. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    xphoenix87,

    Smith was in George Karl’s doghouse for much of 2006-2007. But he had a great year last season. He was the only Nugget that showed up in the playoffs. And his skill set is complete.

    Smith doesn’t draw a lot of fouls, but he does have the explosiveness to get in the lane and finish or create for others.

    Smith’s primary competition isn’t Anthony Carter, it’s Allen Iverson. He’s not a point guard, he’s a 2 guard.

    Iguadola is an athlete that just happens to play basketball. He’s a good player, but he’s not very skilled. He’s explosive and he’s the best defender of the three, but there’s no way I would take him over J.R. Smith.

    I understand what you’re saying in regards to risk. Smith has made a lot of questionable decisions. But he’s only 22-years old and he appeared to turn the corner last year.

  3. xphoenix87 Says:

    “Smith was in George Karl’s doghouse for much of 2006-2007″

    And perpetually in Byron Scott’s before that.

    “Smith doesn’t draw a lot of fouls, but he does have the explosiveness to get in the lane and finish or create for others.”

    He gets to the line less than the other two, he doesn’t distribute the ball as well as the other two, and he has his shot blocked more inside than the other two (11% of his attempts close to the basket are blocked, as opposed to 9% for the shorter Ellis and a mere 6% for Iguadola).

    “Smith’s primary competition isn’t Anthony Carter, it’s Allen Iverson. He’s not a point guard, he’s a 2 guard.”

    Of the top 20 5-man units Smith played in last year minutewise, not one of them included Carter. All of them included Iverson. Almost every time Smith was in the game, Iverson slid over to point guard and Smith replaced Carter. There were plenty of minutes available in that Denver backcourt, and the Nuggets desperately needed perimeter shooting all year. The fact that, in spite of that, Smith only played 20 minutes a game is glaring to me.

    “Iguadola is an athlete that just happens to play basketball. He’s a good player, but he’s not very skilled. He’s explosive and he’s the best defender of the three, but there’s no way I would take him over J.R. Smith.”

    By almost any measure, Iguadola is a better ball-handler, a better passer, a better rebounder, and a FAR better defender. He’s either more skilled than you give him credit for, or he’s just all kinds of lucky.

  4. Mr. Showtime Says:

    I’m with xphoenix on this one.

    I’m Iggy’s biggest critic and there’s no way I take J.R. Smith over Iguodala.

    Monta Ellis should only be involved in the discussion pertaining to the establishment of market value and he was grossly overpaid. In fact, Ellis is part 3 of why Chris Mullin may be looking for a job in 2009 (parts 1 & 2 involve Baron Davis and Elton Brand, respectively)

    I agree with nearly everything you said about Smith. However, he plays in the run-and-gun. Many players’ stats are inflated in the fast-paced game and it often leads to large undeserved contracts (Quentin Richardson, Tim Thomas, and James Jones). I also do not like the fact that Smith often plays without restraint. At times, this is what you want from players, but it seems that in the Nuggets games that I have watched, many of his minutes come during garbage times so that his defenseive flaws and unwillingness to share the ball are not highlighted.

    Sure, he’s a “shooting” guard. The typical responsibilities of a SG in this league are to catch and shoot and play respectable defense. But wouldn’t you want more out of your players? Iguodala (who actually averaged 2.1 SPG in 2007-08)is a premiere defender in the league and averages under two and a half fouls per game. He can shoot midrange, rebound, defend, and get to the hoop at will.

    What I don’t like about Iggy is that he still has yet to live up to his potential. Entering his 5th season, he should be entering his prime and improving every season. To me, he seem stagnant in a role in which he’s not sure if he should take the next step. Or maybe he doesn’t know how (I’m lookin at you, Maurice Cheeks!). He plays with a bit of restraint. With his athletecism and skillset, there’s no reason that he should not be looking at a triple-double this season. I’m tired of seeing him take a back seat to guys like Andre Miller. Miller should be the sidekick and even Elton Brand needs to promote Iguodala as the goto guy in Philly.

  5. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    xphoenix87 & Showtime

    Both of you guys made some solid points. And I’ll concede that Iguodala is the better defender and has certainly proven more to this point of his career.

    But one of the reasons I stated I’d take Smith over Iguodala is potential. I believe J.R. Smith has the potential to be a 25-30 PPG scorer in the NBA. I think he has All-Star talent.

    I couldn’t find any data to support this, but I believe Smith and Anthony were the highest scoring duo in the league before the incident in New York.

    I don’t feel that way about Andre Iguodala. That’s not to say he won’t become an All-Star one day, but I don’t think he’s a perennial All-Star type talent.

    While it’s true that potential doesn’t mean squat without production, both Smith and Iguodala are fourth-year players. Like it or not, that’s what rookie extensions are about: potential. One of the reasons Iguodala is a better defender is because he played a year at Arizona under Lute Olson. Smith came out of high school. He’s still learning a lot of the defensive nuances of the game.

    And yet his offensive repertoire is more complete than Iguodala’s. Which tells me he’s putting in the work to become an elite player and with more tutelage, he’ll become a better helpside and man-to-man defender. Defense is about desire, but there are tricks to the trade that every NBA player has to learn to become a good defender. Playing for George Karl probably isn’t aiding in Smith’s defensive development. He has the tools. He’s strong (although not as strong as Iguodala), and his lateral quickness is good.

    Also, I think you guys are overrating Iguodala’s playmaking and ball-handling skills. He can penetrate going to his right, but his left hand is suspect at best.

  6. xphoenix87 Says:

    I think you’re completely off your rocker if you think Smith will ever average 30 points a game.

    “I couldn’t find any data to support this, but I believe Smith and Anthony were the highest scoring duo in the league before the incident in New York.”

    Seeing as that was 20 games into the season, I’d take that with a grain of salt.

    In four years, Iguadola has made MUCH larger strides towards reaching his potential (which is considerable) than Smith has. In four years, Smith hasn’t been more than a spot starter and has proven himself to be very difficult to coach. He also doesn’t give consistent effort on the court, especially if his shot isn’t falling. That isn’t the kind of player I’m particularly inclined to throw $10 mil a year at.

    “Also, I think you guys are overrating Iguodala’s playmaking and ball-handling skills. He can penetrate going to his right, but his left hand is suspect at best.”

    His right hand is much stronger at this point, you’re right. However, he doesn’t turn the ball over much despite that, and he’s a MUCH better passer than Smith is.

  7. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    X,

    You’re right about 30 points. I don’t really expect Smith to win a scoring title. But I do think he could average between 25-30 points. Twenty-six points per game is probably more along the lines of his ceiling though. Which — in my opinion — is more than Iguodala is capable of.

    Look, I think Iguodala is a good player. He has the potential to be a 1st team All-NBA defender. But I don’t think he’s a game changer. I don’t think he has a lot of room for improvement.

    And I wouldn’t “throw $10 million” at Smith either. But I would match any offer up to that amount. That’s how highly I think of the kid.

  8. Mr. Showtime Says:

    Kevin Durant has the J to lead the league in scoring.

    He has the length and athletecism to be in the top 5 in rebounding and be 1st team All Defense.

    But will he be?

    Darko Milicic had the potential to be a beast inside and payed for the best team in the league with one of the best coaches.

    Isaiah Rider was one of the most talented and athletic 2 guards of his generation, but his mind was on other things and he never lived up to his unlimited potential.

    Potential makes the league go round, but in the end it burns many teams badly.

  9. Brandon Hoffman Says:

    Mr. Showtime,

    I agree with most of what you wrote. Although I don’t agree that Kevin Durant has the potential to lead the league in anything. He’s too frail, and his body type won’t allow him to put on a lot of weight.

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