Previously: The Josh Smith, Jump Shooter? series
Inspired by an upcoming Ric Bucher story for ESPN: The Magazine about Josh Smith's off-season work with personal trainer Idan Rivan, Zach Lowe takes up the issue of Josh Smith's improved jump shooting this season:
Smith is shooting more long twos than ever before and more threes per game than in any season since 2006-07, and he’s making both shots at a career-best rate. He has been above 40 percent on three-pointers for most of this season, which is perhaps why we haven’t heard much lately about Hawks coach Larry Drew and Smith butting heads over long jumpers.There's the rub. After last night's game*, Smith is making 39.1% of his long two-point jumpers, 36.7% of his three-point shots, and 72% of his free throws this season. He has definitely improved his shooting stroke. It's just not good. And, because he hasn't used his improved skill to augment his strengths but as end to itself, his overall offensive game has suffered. His eFG%, TS%, and assist rate are all down from last season.
The question: Was it an early-season fluke, or has the seven-year veteran, 25, learned something?
If you’ve been watching the Hawks, you know Smith’s numbers over the last six weeks have come crashing down. In his last 16 games, he’s just 11-of-40 (27.5 percent) from three-point range. And those long twos? During his last 20 games — nearly half Atlanta’s season — Smith has hit just 23-of-74 jumpers from the area between 16 feet and the three-point line. That’s 31 percent — almost exactly Smith’s career rate from this range and well below his season-long rate of 39 percent.
That higher figure is obviously the result of some hot early-season shooting. It will be interesting to watch the rest of this season to see where Smith’s jump-shooting numbers settle. My money continues to be on numbers that look much like his career statistics.
This is not a knock on Ravin, by the way. By most accounts, he’s a fantastic teacher, and if Smith’s numbers don’t improve at all, it doesn’t mean Ravin did a poor job. It might mean that Smith isn’t following his technical advice anymore — and come to think of it, I wonder if Ravin has been watching Smith’s games — or it might mean that Smith just isn’t a very good jump shooter and won’t ever be one.
According to Synergy Sports, Josh Smith ranks 158th in the league in points per possession as a spot-up shooter. And that's with him making more than 40% of his twos and his threes when classified as a spot-up shooter.
*Not reflected in these numbers are the four 14-foot jumpers he missed in Milwaukee.
Just as Josh Smith's temporary renunciation of the three-point shot last season did not mean he actually improved his shot selection, his actually improved shooting stroke, no matter the degree to which he has improved his shooting come season's end, does not mean he has improved as an offensive player.