Carmelo Anthony has gotten the go ahead to play on Friday. This, of course, is going to be good for the Denver Nuggets. What will his return mean to the now fantasy studly J.R. Smith?
Through the last couple of years, my fantasy basketball relationship with JR has been much like that of an undecided first-time, junior high couple. We’re on. He messes up, then we’re off. He has a huge game, then we’re on again. JR is not exactly the kind of player you want to own if you want some stability in your life. Saying that his young NBA career has been fantasy volatile must be one of the understatements of the year.
Throughout this season and the months just before, J.R. has been more of a fantasy conundrum than anything else. This was divined to be his year. His year! The experts said so and the stars seemed to be aligned for him to explode. He quickly disappointed dreamers with his lackluster performances off the bench, showing more of his inconsistent colors.
When Melo had to miss some time due to a fractured hand, J.R. eventually got inserted in the starting lineup. In the eight game string of recent starts that he’s had, he has only failed to score 19 or more points twice. He’s averaging 4.4 dimes and 2.1 treys over those 8 contests as well. George Karl and the Nuggets have leaned on J.R. to man up and mature as a player. The Nuggs integrated him as a key cog in its fast paced offense, but he has shown he can do more than that and has even been picking an average of 1.5 pockets a night on the defensive end.
What will happen to J.R. when Melo comes back? The Nuggets is Melo’s team. He gets priority for those all important touches. Will the new and improved J.R. be able to coexist on the floor with “Mr. Score from anywhere, anytime?” Melo’s return will be a key crossroad in J.R.’s NBA career.
He will have to learn his place in the team. He will have to be content to be more of a role player, playing a role of that of an outside shooter or secondary or even tertiary scoring option. Whatever George Karl decides to do with him, he will have to be open to accept it and make the most of his opportunities. It might not happen just yet, then again it might not ever happen at all. It will, odds are, take some time. Being a half-full glass kind of guy, I’d like to think it will happen sooner rather than later. Starting on friday, the ball will be in J.R.’s court. Let’s see what he can do with it.