X-Factor: Andrei Kirilenko vs. J.R. Smith

Mike Woodson, J.R. Smith
Mike Woodson and J.R. Smith (AP)

Mike Woodson and J.R. Smith (AP)
Mike Woodson and J.R. Smith (AP)

Are there two crucial bench players that effect the game in more differing ways than J.R. Smith and Andrei Kirilenko?

Smith can score upwards of 20 points on eight shots on any given night, with near-limitless range and certain-limitless conscience. If he doesn’t score, he’s utterly useless. Kirilenko may not shoot a field goal in 30 minutes, but will affect the game with his spindly arms and kinetic style in nearly every way.

I said often last year that if scoring was not an object in basketball, Gerald Wallace would be Brooklyn’s best player. Well, Andrei Kirilenko makes non-scoring Gerald Wallace look like Gerald Wallace as a first scoring option on offense. He does everything. He switches on screens seamlessly. He has a knack for finding a loose ball that other players would never see. He finds teammates open on passes down the baseline in the post that no Nets player would ever find. He is Brooklyn’s rocking waves, seemingly out of control but ultimately steering the ship in the right direction.

Smith, conversely, is a dead-eye shooter in a way Kirilenko will never be. He could shoot upwards of 46 percent if he only took the shots he should. But that’s not J.R. Smith’s style, because J.R. Smith’s style is to look you dead in the eye while he shoots at a basket 40 feet behind him on a dare. He’s as erratic as his playing time. He might not even play, given how the Knicks have treated him with the same consistent, level thought process that he exudes on a daily basis.

Smith was also fined $50,000 by the NBA for untying opponent’s shoelaces. He’s also shooting a career-worst 36.8 percent from the field, meaning that he’s a shooter who’s having trouble shooting. Kirilenko’s not having trouble doing whatever it is Andrei Kirilenko does. That seals that one up.


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