Monday, February 21, 2011

Josh Smith, Jump Shooter? All-Star Break Edition

Both Mike Prada and Bill Simmons, in their rankings of NBA players last week, made a point to credit Josh Smith for his improved perimeter shooting. Which is a perfectly fair and accurate assessment in and of itself. However, much as Smith got credit for improved shot selection by putting up a near goose egg in the 3PTA column of last (regular) season's boxscores while the three long two-point jumpers (a worse shot) he took each game were ignored, it should not be overlooked that Smith's improved jump shot has not made him a better offensive player.

Smith has improved to a league-average shooter on long jump shots so far this season, but because he's taking so many jump shots (6 a game) his eFG% (50.3% so far this season) is essentially the same as he posted the past two seasons (50.8% and 50.5%). His TS% has improved slightly, because of his career-high FT% but, because of the extra time he's spending on the perimeter attempting uncontested jump shots, he's on pace for a career-low Free Throw Rate, undermining much of his improvement from the line.

Furthermore, spot-up shooter Josh Smith is on pace to set a career-low in Offensive Rebounding Rate, is earning fewer assists than he did last season, and turning the ball over more often.

His improvement as a jump shooter could make him a better basketball player. It has not done so yet.

Updated charts...

Josh Smith continues to take and make three-point field goals at a far higher rate than his career norms:

Josh Smith3PTA/FGA

Smith's hot season (40-115) from beyond the arc has lifted his career 3PTFG% to 28.2%.

Smith is also making a significantly higher percentage of his long two-point jump shots so far this season:

Josh SmitheFG% (16-23')

The league average from 16-23 feet this season is 39.5% on 1.7 (per player) field goal attempts per game so Smith has clearly been an above average shooter from that range so far this season.

He's both taking and making a greater percentage of his long jump shots so far this season.

Josh Smith%FGA (16+')eFG% (16+')

Smith has continued to take a lower percentage of his shot attempts at the rim than in previous seasons. Some of that may be due to a data collection change at Hoopdata. Last season, 32.5% of shots in the NBA were categorized as at the rim. This season, 29.1% of shots in the NBA have been so categorized.

Josh Smith%FGA (at rim)eFG% (at rim)


Adam Malka said...

Brett - Is there any way to discern, or at least knowledgeably speculate about, what Josh Smith's optimal shot distribution should be? Is it the case that Smith's shooting improvement has not been enough to warrant any--or, at least, more than a minimal number--of shots beyond the paint? Or should he be taking a few but not nearly as many jump shots?

Bret LaGree said...

Adam --

Optimal would be difficult to define. Roughly speaking, I'd say that his current volume of three-point shots is fine if he continues to make more than a third of them and that the spot-up shots one step inside of the three-point line should be reduced as close to zero as reasonably possible.

Beyond that, whatever number of 16-18' jumpers (or extra three-point attempts, again assuming he makes them at this season's rate) are necessary to attempt in order to make a pump fake effective should be sufficient.

The Murph said...

Great read. I've been trying to figure out why Josh "hasn't been as good" this season even though he seems to be a "better player."