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Smith set to resume role as sixth man extraordinaire


As the 2010-11 season approaches, Nuggets.com is taking a closer look at each Nuggets player and their prospects for the upcoming season. Assistant coach Chad Iske was kind enough to provide a candid scouting report, which reflects the views of the Nuggets coaching staff as a whole.

Today’s featured player is shooting guard J.R. Smith, an explosive scorer and perennial candidate for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award. Coming of the bench last season, Smith averaged a career-high 15.4 points and moved past Michael Adams as Denver’s franchise leader in three-point field goals (644).

Smith’s talent has never been questioned, but he remains one of the league’s most enigmatic players who sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him. Nuggets coach George Karl has been pleasantly surprised with Smith’s focus and work ethic during training camp and is optimistic that the 25-year-old will make significant strides during the 2010-11 season.

Smith’s potential was on display Tuesday night when he scored 21 points and added seven rebounds, five assists and two steals without committing a turnover in a preseason win over the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Here are a few more things to note about Earl J Smith III as he enters his seventh NBA season:

NICKNAMES: Swish, Junior.

PERFORMANCE TO REMEMBER IN 2009-10
Though Smith was spectacular while hitting 10 three-pointers and scoring 41 points against the Atlanta Hawks on Dec. 23, he put together an impressive all-around performance two months later when he had 25 points, eight rebounds and four steals against the Golden State Warriors. The Nuggets outscored the Warriors by 21 points when Smith was on the floor.

COACHING STAFF’S ASSESSMENT OF LAST SEASON
“J.R. sometimes doesn’t stick to what we want to do long enough or gives up on it too quickly, but he does listen to coaching and you see a concerted effort to try to do what we want, try to pass the ball, try to find the roll on pick and rolls.

"He wears his emotions on his sleeve and everything is out in the open for everybody to see, but there’s a passion there that tells you he wants to be successful and wants to be a great player. Sometimes he just goes about it the wrong way. Here’s a guy that has the innate talent to win you a playoff game with his ability to put the ball in the basket. Plus, he's one of the best athletes in the league.”

OUTLOOK FOR 2010-11
“Our goal for J.R. is to improve his efficiency from last season, get his shooting percentage up a little bit, get more of his looks to be better looks. It’s a balance between shooting and driving. We want him to get easier and better looks instead of having the tough drive or the tough shot. We want to put him in position to succeed.”

IN HIS OWN WORDS: WHAT WENT RIGHT LAST SEASON
“I wasn’t really happy with my game last year. I don’t think I had a good year.”

IMPROVEMENTS FOR 2010-11
“Be a better defender, get more steals and more rebounds.”

INDIVIDUAL GOALS
“My goal this year is to shoot 90 percent from the free throw line, 40 percent from three-point range, 50 percent from the field – Ray Allen numbers.”

STAT THAT BEARS RE-TWEETING
2 Number of times Smith has made at least 10 three-pointers in a game (a team-record 11 on April 13, 2009, and 10 on Dec. 23, 2009). He is the only player in NBA history to record double-digit threes in multiple games.


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