X- Factor: J.R. Smith

X-Factor—J.R. Smith

By Keith Schlosser, KnicksJournal.com

Mike Woodson has led the Knicks to a 9-2 record since becoming head coach, widening the gap between them and the Bucks for eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.

As the team continues its push towards the playoffs, they will certainly use elevated efforts from various players to make up for the loss of both Jeremy Lin and Amar’e Stoudemire.  Which Knick has the potential to emerge as a late season hero to help Carmelo Anthony lead the charge?

That could very well be J.R. Smith, the swingman who has proven he can score in bunches off the bench.  A midseason acquisition, he has begun to find his rhythm and has been a major contributor as of late. Smith has averaged 12 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 2 steals as the Knicks have won four of their last five. His spike in production has surely been felt, helping propel the team along the way.

A native of Freehold, New Jersey, the local product has a healthy blend of skills necessary to be such a spark plug off the bench. With their stars out, Smith has the opportunity to shine as a potent offensive option for the Knicks. He is the type of player that can take charge and create his own offense. Smith carries himself with an immense amount of confidence and swagger, enough to energize his team and pour in the points.

Exploding for 20 points during Saturday’s 91-75 win over the Cavaliers, Smith continued to prove he can come up big in the clutch. His 12 fourth quarter points helped the Knicks secure the victory. Furthermore, Smith drained three shots from downtown during his second twenty-plus point performance of the season. His impressive sharp shooting represents a bright facet of his game.

It’s clear Smith can elevate the Knicks’ level of play with the weapons in his offensive arsenal, but his contributions do not end there. A fearless defender, Smith has taken on the burden of guarding some of the league’s elite players over the course of his career. He has the ability to intimidate opponents with his swarming presence, playing lockdown defense and diving for loose balls. Such an impact was also evident in the Knicks’ victory on Saturday, as Smith paced his team’s defensive effort with five steals.

Coming off what was potentially his best game as a Knick, Smith stands to make an even bigger impact going forward. He plays with an abundance of energy often attributed to a young stud, yet also demonstrates the intelligence of a playoff veteran.

With the Knicks going up against two formidable Eastern Conference playoff contenders in the Pacers and Magic this week, look for Smith to continue to roll with the punches, building up the momentum necessary to hone in on his various skills.

Facing adversity in the form of major injuries, the Knicks are counting on multiple players to step up. This can be Smith’s moment, and he has all the potential in the world to shine as an X-Factor.

For more from Keith Schlosser, visit KnicksJournal.com. You can follow him on Twitter @KnicksJournal.