I never thought JR Smith was bad. I never thought he was a reason why the Knicks were bad.

JR Smith (Getty Images).
JR Smith (Getty Images).

In fact, I've always been pretty high on JR Smith. He's athletic. He can shoot the ball from deep. And now he's headed to the NBA Finals in Cleveland after being traded to the Cavs earlier this year.

And so is Iman Shumpert, who was also not the reason the Knicks were awful this season.

But I'll focus on Smith.

JR Smith is the guy at the YMCA that you can really hate playing with. Or the guy that you can really love playing with. It depends on who the other four teammates are around him.

If the team you've assembled around JR Smith is bad, you'll hate playing with JR Smith. He'll take contested shot after contested shot, because he knows that his team will lose, but he'll get his shots up. If he gets hot and the team wins, he knows that the other four guys will praise him because he's the only reason they won.

That was the Knicks. With an injured Carmelo Anthony, JR Smith was that guy.

But if you have another group of players, good, competant players on the court with JR Smith? Then you can be special.

That's what has happened in Cleveland. With LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Timofey Mozgov, and a partially healthy Kevin Love, JR Smith no longer needs to dominate the ball to get his shots up.

He'll get his shots up, but in the flow of an offense. If Kyrie Irving breaks down the defender and draws help, then Smith is open on the wing to do what he does: Shoot.

If LeBron James draws a double-team on the low block? He can kick out.

JR Smith is a good player -- you just need other good players with him to always see it.

And now? The world will see it in the NBA Finals.

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