Over the past five games, J.R. Smith is averaging 25.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals. Most recently, he dropped 20 points in 27 minutes during a 100-83 victory over the San Antonio Spurs.
With his All-Star-caliber play, Smith has become the New York Knicks' co-MVP.
Smith has always been one of the most mercurial players in the NBA. For every great performance came another one in which you were left wondering why Smith was even granted the opportunity to play.
At the age of 27, however, it appears as if Smith has finally put it all together.
Smith is averaging career-bests in points, rebounds and assists per game. He has also served as the spark plug off of the bench, which the Knicks have benefited from in a major way.
It is safe to say that he has earned the trust of his coaching staff and teammates.
The question is, is this level of production sustainable? Or has Smith simply begun this season on a hot streak?
To begin the debate, let's just say that Smith is only getting better as time goes on.
As previously stated, J.R. Smith is averaging 25.6 points, 6.8 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.2 steals over his past five games. This is not a random stretch of success, however, as Smith has been hot all season.
In other words, Smith isn't hot. He's thriving in the opportunity presented to him.
During the opening month of the season, Smith averaged 14.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.3 steals per game. In December, Smith nearly matched or raised each of those numbers.
He finished December with averages of 18.1 points, 4.9 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals.
Smith has topped 20 points in six of his past seven games. He's topped five rebounds in his past eight and five assists in four of his past six.
Since shooting just 6-of-20 from the floor on December 15, 2012, Smith is at 46.8 percent from the field.
In other words, Smith has righted his wrongs and patched up the holes in his game. Although there are moments of inconsistency, we've finally begun to witness his world-class talent come together.
Stardom is on the horizon. The question is, does he actually need more touches?
Thus far in 2012-13, the New York Knicks are 16-6 when J.R. Smith has at least 15 points. They're just 6-4 when he does not.
The numbers speak volumes to the fact that the Knicks are better when Smith is scoring.
The key to Smith's improvement, however, is the fact that he has become a two-way force. Perhaps his most significant contributions have come on defense.
Individually, Smith is averaging 1.3 steals per game. He's also pulling down 5.2 rebounds, which ranks third amongst qualified shooting guards.
He ranks second by position in defensive rebounds.
As for his impact on the team, the Knicks are averaging 95.1 points allowed per 48 minutes with Smith on the floor. That number rises to 99.4 when he is not.
Who would have thought that Smith would be such an influential defender?
It's not about how you start—it's the way you finish.
Even as J.R. Smith has started out hot, there has been no player in the NBA as brilliant in late-game situations. If you don't believe that to be true, check the videos placed above.
Smith has hit game-winners as the clock expired on December 5 and December 26, 2012.
For the season, Smith is shooting 45.0 percent from the floor during the fourth quarter. He's hit 11 field goals during the final three minutes of the fourth quarter.
By comparison, Carmelo Anthony has converted 12.
Although Smith may not be the caliber scorer 'Melo has proved to be, the dynamic he brings to the team is invaluable. From his timely shooting to his explosive athleticism, Smith is a legitimate game changer.
He's also the team's co-MVP.
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