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.