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Why Josh Smith should shoot more 3-pointers

Me at the Detroit Free Press:

The Pistons need one frontcourt player who’s at least semi-willing to shoot from the perimeter. Otherwise, it will be too easy for defenses to pack the paint.

And in this unconventional lineup, Smith is the best option.

So, let’s look closer at his perimeter shooting.

On shots from 18 feet and beyond last season, Smith scored .79 points per shot, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. In that sample, he shot 33.8 percent on 2-pointers and 30.3 percent on 3-pointers, a negligible difference in make rate.

However, the difference in points per shot isn’t so subtle:

» 2-pointers: .68 points per shot
» 3-pointers: .91 points per shot

That’s a huge difference.

If Smith had shifted all his longs 2s into 3s and maintained the same 3-point percentage (30.3), the Hawks would have scored an extra 53.6 points. Plug that into Pythagorean wins, and that translates to 1.9 extra wins.

Nearly two extra wins just by taking a few steps back before each long 2.

Obviously, it won’t be possible for Smith to always be in position to shoot a 3-pointer rather than a long 2. But I also think if he’s focused on eliminating long 2s and taking 3s instead, he could raise his 3-point percentage from 30.3 closer to his long-2 conversion rate of 33.8.

46 Comments

  • Oct 11, 20132:46 pm
    by Some Dude

    Reply

    From what I’ve seen so far, Smith has rarely taken any long two’s. He’s either been posting up, driving to the basket, or take threes. And so far he’s hitting them at a high rate, 5-7 so far in 2 games. If he keeps that up, the Pistons are in good shape.

  • Oct 11, 20132:52 pm
    by Rodman4Life

    Reply

    Shhhhh! Stop that crazy talk , Dan.  We don’t need chuck city.  Why not more screens, slip screens, backdoor screens? Screen the bejesus out of them.  And then ALSO get the offensive rebounds.  We have the speed to get back enough that pounding the basket would be worth it.  Did you see the rebound numbers from the Heat game?  Great preview of what we could do.  And if our guards hit some of their longer shots (and we hit the glass for the misses) we could really pull away.  We fast break very well.  I know the whole floor spacing philosophy, but instead of trying to fit into that mold, we should embrace the fact that we can present a matchup unlike (and therefore unique) any other team. Josh Smith chucking threes is an undesirable alternative.

  • Oct 11, 20132:59 pm
    by Ben

    Reply

    hahahahaha yea let josh smith take more threes…awful, awful blog post. why do you think the Hawks let him go?  Josh Smith as a chucker?  One of the least talented shooters in the game.  Josh Smith the driving, passing PF….lethal.

    • Oct 11, 20133:54 pm
      by Otis

      Reply

      Yes, Ben. Great point about driving and passing. I’m commenting below, but wanted to give you a hat tip since you’re the first to mention it.

    • Oct 12, 20131:37 am
      by Some Dude

      Reply

      That’s his game and he’ll always do that. But if he continues to shoot anything close to what he’s doing in preseason. Let him fire away.

  • Oct 11, 20133:17 pm
    by Ryank

    Reply

    He’s looked good taking them so far.  It seems like a lot of players get better at shooting as they age.  Smith will likely need to adapt his game away from being an athletic freak over the next couple years to keep being as productive.  

    33% from three pointland is as good as 50% from two pointland.  If we’re lucky, he’ll make 35% for the year and force defenders to step away from the paint.  If Monroe can hit a shot 15-18 feet away, Drummond will own the league…gathering up the boards and making the put backs.   

    • Oct 11, 20134:39 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      I would be shocked if Smith shot 35% from three. He has shot 28% for his career with remarkable consistency. he has only been significantly over 30% one season (10-11) and even then he only shot 33%.

      • Oct 12, 20131:41 am
        by Some Dude

        Reply

        It’s all about shot selections. So for in preseason he’s had open looks, rhythm shots. If he continues to get those looks, it will increase is percentage. In ATL his shot selection was questioned, but contrary to what be say about spacing. Smith has been getting clean looks at the basket.

        • Oct 12, 20139:52 am
          by tarsier

          Reply

          In Atlanta, virtually all of his deep shots were also open because players rarely guarded him tightly far from the basket. They were defending the pass or the drive, not the shot.

          • Oct 12, 20132:11 pm
            by Some Dude

            Well, I don’t what’s going on but he’s hitting them now. So…yay…

          • Oct 12, 20133:30 pm
            by tarsier

            Maybe, it’s awfully hard to draw any conclusions from 7 shots.

  • Oct 11, 20133:22 pm
    by Josh B

    Reply

    Agree that Smith needs to take some threes this year. They’re going to screen like crazy and play bully ball, but you have to have spacing, that’ll make it even easier on the beasts down low. 

  • Oct 11, 20133:39 pm
    by Slap Dog Hoops (SDH)

    Reply

    I think Josh Smith is fine doing what he’s doing.  I have seen players of his ability and skill turn into jump shooters and it is not a pretty thing.

  • Oct 11, 20134:11 pm
    by Otis

    Reply

    It might sound too obvious to say, but I want him taking threes if he’s comfortable and making them. If the only standard is that he’s going to TAKE a lot of shots, defenses are going to let him shoot and happily live with it. He needs to be a threat to make them. If I’m game planning against these Pistons, I’m going to worry about the paint and only the paint. Once this team starts winning games with its three point shooting, I’ll start worrying about them beating me from distance.
     
    There’s not much basketball discussion I hate more than people’s complaints about long twos. The worst shot in basketball isn’t a long two, if the shooter is comfortable. Would you rather have a guy take a long two and make it, or dribble it a step backwards and miss a three pointer? Would you rather a guy hoist and miss a three pointer he’s not especially comfortable with, or take a dribble a few steps inside the arc and make the two? Loaded questions, yes, but different players are comfortable with different shots. I’m not talking about a toe on the line, which is just a mental mistake, but I want players taking shots they’re comfortable with.
     
    And there’s a difference between the floor spacing standards of a SF and a PF. Pretty much any SF worth a damn should be a credible threat from distance. For a PF, you basically only need a guy who has a legitimate elbow jumper. In Smith’s case, especially if he’s playing PF (is there any dispute that PF is his best position) he can spread defenses to the three point line based on his ability to drive and pass. That’s probably enough to at least keep his defender around the same distance from the basket as if they were defending against an elbow jumper.

    • Oct 11, 20134:43 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      I don’t mind Smith standing near the arc. But he should only ever shoot from there if wide open with noone closing out on him.

      He’s really good at cutting to the basket though, so that should make defenders reticent to close out hard on him. Then he can step back, take his time, shoot, and run in after a potential long rebound.

      • Oct 11, 201310:31 pm
        by Otis

        Reply

        Like I said, comfortable shots. Sometimes I write too much, but my main point is that his willingness alone to shoot three pointers is not going to change how teams defend him. He needs to make them or else they’ll just give him the shot. Judging purely by my projections, if I’m game planning this team I’ll load up down low and let them take as many threes as they want. Basketball is a pick-your-poison sport, and this team is just too big inside to worry about how they’re going to hurt you anywhere else. Their shot charts through two preseason games are predictably horrifying. I counted ten made jump shots and only one (1) from midrange.

        • Oct 12, 20131:49 am
          by Some Dude

          Reply

          Need to take into account that they aren’t running many plays. Villanueva is jacking up shots everytime he touches the ball. KCP is just struggling, as well as some other guys. But it’s preseason offense. They’re playing pretty sloppy right now but this should smoothen out once real games start. Right now it’s a lot of bench guys just trying to get their points.

    • Oct 11, 20134:43 pm
      by MIKEYDE248

      Reply

      There is also a difference between being comfortable with taking a shot and being good at it.  Smith looks pretty comfortable taking long shots, just isn’t that good at it.  There aren’t too many players that are very good at taking long 2′s.  Most figure that it’s more benifical to take the step back for the bigger payoff, so that’s where they practic from.

      • Oct 11, 201310:37 pm
        by Otis

        Reply

        I don’t disagree with this, but if you trust your players, you need to trust them to take shots they’re comfortable with. If you find that he’s shooting too much or taking bad shots, you reign him in. And if he’s just delusional about his own capabilities, you don’t give him the green light. But if he’s going to take a shot, I’m more worried about his comfort zone (and the coach’s comfort zone) than whether or not it’s going to count for two or three points. Too much is made about it. If the shot goes in, I’m not going to call it a bad shot just because it’s a long two. If it’s a good shot, take it. It’s not worth any points if it doesn’t go in.

        • Oct 12, 20133:52 am
          by oats

          Reply

          Based on his past performance, I think Smith is comfortable taking a lot of shots that he has no business taking. It’s not like he was hesitating or showing some other sign that he had been uncomfortable. I strongly suspect that Smith’s comfort zone is significantly broader than what constitutes a good shot for him.
           
          I also think it’s foolish to be ok with any made shot. Long twos can be good shots for some players in certain situations, but at the same time made shots can definitely be bad shots. The goal should be to reward the player for making good decisions and not just rewarding a fortuitous outcome form any decision. Rewarding a guy for getting lucky while making a bad decision just encourages him to make further bad decisions, and the odds say that he will not continue to get lucky.

    • Oct 12, 20139:55 am
      by Dan Feldman

      Reply

      “There’s not much basketball discussion I hate more than people’s complaints about long twos. The worst shot in basketball isn’t a long two, if the shooter is comfortable. Would you rather have a guy take a long two and make it, or dribble it a step backwards and miss a three pointer? Would you rather a guy hoist and miss a three pointer he’s not especially comfortable with, or take a dribble a few steps inside the arc and make the two?”

      You are arguing against a straw man. I’ve never heard someone credible suggest a player dribble back awkwardly to take a 3 rather than a 2. I’ve never heard someone credible suggest a player should 

      Also, your examples are absurd because you’re comparing bad 3-point shots to automatic long 2s — something that doesn’t exist. Even the best long 2-point shooters will make just two-third of those shots when open.

      There are a negligible amount of players who are and should remain so much more comfortable with long 2s than 3s that it offsets the difference in points per shot. But for everyone else, long 2 vs. 3 shouldn’t be something decided in the heat of the moment as you describe. It should be developed through the offensive system and practice.

      More often, players should be running an offensive scheme that has them behind the 3-point arc rather than a couple feet inside it. When run correctly, schemes like those won’t leave players making the choices you’re talking about.

  • Oct 11, 20135:38 pm
    by Mel

    Reply

    I don’t mine J-Smoov taking 3′s I just hope the Piston crowd don’t turn into the Hawks crowd and not support the dude when he takes the shot. Imagine your’own hometown trashing you when you take a 3 point shot. Those aren’t supporting fans. Fan’s are suppose to life your game so you make shot’s , not bring you down. Trash the clowns on the other team. Also Josh is a better three point shooter than most of our team. When was the last time we really had a great three ponit shooter besides Billips. Even Gordon shot went away once he became a Piston. I agree with Mo Cheeks , Don’t limit a players game . Tell him what he’s doing wrong and make adjustments. 

    • Oct 11, 201310:41 pm
      by Otis

      Reply

      “Imagine your’own (sic) hometown trashing you when you take a 3 point shot.”
       
      Ever hear of Rodney Stuckey? Some guys just shouldn’t shoot threes. We’ll all get a crash course on Smith in due time, but there’s nothing wrong with trashing a guy who’s taking too many threes and can’t deliver. If he’s dragging down the team, he’s going to get trashed. If you just want to root on your guys no matter how awful they are, watch soccer.

    • Oct 13, 20133:43 pm
      by T Casey

      Reply

      Mel, rest assured, Detroit fans wouldn’t turn on him for that. So long as he’s playing hard and being a good teammate, the crowd will take it in stride. One thing’s for sure, you’ve got to be doing something very wrong for Detroit fans, especially the Piston crowd, to turn on you. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t see it happening.

  • Oct 11, 20136:09 pm
    by AYC

    Reply

    What Josh Smith needs to do is shoot the RIGHT 3s. Looking at his shot chart he has one zone where he shoots 36% at.  What he needs to do is stick to that zone and maybe develop one other to keep defenses honest.  36& isn’t sharpshooter level, but its good enough as a “stretch” option.

    • Oct 12, 201312:00 pm
      by tarsier

      Reply

      Take 100 shots from each of the “zones” around the three point line. I guarantee that even if you are an equally good shot from each, you will sink more from one spot than another purely because of random chance.

      Last season, Smith appeared to be a better shot from the right wing and the top of the arc than elsewhere. But I’m unsure whether the difference was stark enough to rely on a sample size of about 200 total shots. So let’s look at his entire career (including playoffs).

      Left Corner: 36/120, 30.0%
      Left Wing: 67/280, 23.9%
      Top of Arc: 42/151, 27.8%
      Right Wing: 96/299, 32.1%
      Right Corner: 43/165, 26.1%
      Half court: 0/14, 0%

      Yeah, ok, I’d say that’s convincing enough that Smith is probably competent to shoot from the right wing but should really stay away from shooting other threes as much as possible, that left wing is particularly appalling, and he shoots from there almost as much.

      • Oct 12, 201312:07 pm
        by tarsier

        Reply

        I wouldn’t count on 36% shooting, though. That 32% average seems more likely as Smith has not exactly improved much as a shooter during his time in the league. Here are his marks for each season from the right wing:
        0%
        39%
        25%
        33%
        35%
        0%
        35%
        26%
        37% 

        That all looks like random variance with no trend. 

  • Oct 11, 20137:14 pm
    by Frankdog

    Reply

    I read awhile back that Sheed was working on threes with Smith. I can’t help but think that couldve helped cuz so far Josh is 5-7. Small sample size sure buno fingers crossed right?

  • Oct 11, 201310:04 pm
    by Quello

    Reply

    If he shoots 30% on 3s, that’s the equivalent of 45% on 2s. given his plus defensive ability, that’s ok! He’ll have plenty of looks. We’re going to struggle to score at times, that’s just fact. There’s a potential defensive/rebounding juggernaut here, shooting 45% will be enough to get us through most nights.

    Agreed it isn’t his best offensive fit but if he throws up a few and it keeps him happy, worse things could happen 

    • Oct 12, 201311:37 am
      by tarsier

      Reply

      I’ve often wondered if there is data available for this. Obviously, a made shot gives a defensive advantage. But a missed shot creates the possibility of an offensive rebound. So I don’t honestly know whether 30% from three or 45% from midrange is better. i would prefer a 45% shot near the basket just because of the increased possibility of drawing a foul. But on jumpshots, I doubt that probability changes much with location.

  • Oct 11, 201310:51 pm
    by Otis

    Reply

    Well, 30% from 3 doesn’t exactly translate to 45% from 2. In the first scenario you’re missing 70 out of 100 shots, giving the opponent lots of chances to get out ant run. In the other scenario, the extra 15 shots that went down give you the chance to set up your defense. Points per shot is the same, but it’s just not as simple as you put it.
     
    Also, if Smith is happy taking a bunch of threes without ever making them, I don’t want him on my team. Cashing his paycheck should make him happy, and anything else is gravy. Playing smart basketball and giving yourself the best chance to win should make players happier than anything. I have no problem with a coach limiting someone’s game if it’s hurting the team.

    • Oct 12, 20131:33 am
      by Quello

      Reply

      He’s shooting maybe 3 a game at most. Plus the pistons own the offensive glass. It’s much ado about nothing. he’s lockdown defensively. His probable 2 blocks and 2 steals per game will more than nullify a slightly lower than average 3 point percentage. And his positional defence is stellar. He’s far and away the best player that’s chosen to come here in so long. Lets appreciate what he brings and not quibble about stats that only sound impressive if stretched out over 30 games

      • Oct 12, 20131:03 pm
        by tarsier

        Reply

        The Pistons own the offensive glass? I expect them to be stronger on the defensive boards. Last season, Drummond had the 5th highest OReb rate in the league. But Monroe came in 55th. That probably puts the tandem at somewhat above average, but hardly owning. Indeed, the Pistons were 9th in the league in OReb rate.

        • Oct 13, 20136:58 am
          by Quello

          Reply

          Last season? What when Drummond was 19 and getting 20 minutes a game? When 6’5 Jason Maxiell started every game? Before Josh Smith came on board? Yeah I’m sure there will be no improvement there. Last season has no bearing on this year given the huge upgrade and turnover in personnel. Besides that, long shots equal long rebounds, increasing the odds of an offensive rebound. If the pistons don’t own the offensive glass, something has either gone terribly wrong or Smith and Jennings have increased their efficiency. 

          • Oct 13, 20138:48 am
            by tarsier

            It has already been established that Smith is not particularly great on the offensive glass. Monroe is solid there, but below average for his position. Drummond is a beast. But one beast rarely makes a team “own the offensive glass”.

            And yes, expect Drummond to improve many aspects of his game. But don’t expect too much improvement in his rebounding. That is one aspect of the game in which players are usually at their peak form when they enter as rookies. 

          • Oct 13, 20139:55 am
            by Quello

            This is in reply to tarsier’s last comment…

            so your argument is that Andre Drummond has plateaud as an offensive rebounder and that the 14th leading offensive rebounder in the league is ‘below average for his position’? That was a down year from a 23 year old. Josh Smith is a much better offensive rebounder than your average SF, obviously. I guess by saying we will own the glass u guys feel I’m talking about a starting front court of Wilt and Rodman. We will be in the top handful in the NBA. That’s a given. 

          • Oct 13, 20132:36 pm
            by tarsier

            Odds are good that Drummond has plaeaued as a rebounder because almost all players do very early in their careers. I expect his rpg to go up this season, but as a result of more minutes not because of an increased rebound rate.

            Monroe last season was 55th in the league in offensive rebound rate. You don’t think that’s below average for his position?

            You claim that Smith is obviously a much better offensive rebounder than your average SF. That is obvious based on what? Last season, 19 players ESPN classifies as SFs had higher offensive rebound rates and Smith was 135th overall in the league i offensive rebound rate.

            It would seem fairly likely that the Pistons will be top ten in offensive rebounding next season. It would take some major improvements by their players to reach top 5. So I’m not sure what you meant by owning the offensive glass. To me “owning” would typically mean tops in the league. Or, at a bare minimum, top 5, which, while possible, is not highly likely.

          • Oct 13, 20133:55 pm
            by Quello

            The idea that a raw 19 year old has plateaud in anything is ridiculous. Who would even argue that but you?? Seriously mate, don’t be argumentative for the sake of it. Feel free to dig up examples of this historical pattern. Who? Kwame Brown?

            We were ninth in offensive rebounding last year and we now start Drummond instead of Monroe, Monroe instead of Maxiell, Smith instead of Prince / Singler and even Singler / Stuckey / KCP instead of Knight. We’ve improved at almost every position so, yes, that’s a lineup that could lead the league in offensive rebounding. That said, what owning means to you is inconsequential. They’ll be very good, enough to make up for one or two low percentage shots from Smith per game. That was my point. And I stand by it. 

          • Oct 13, 20134:33 pm
            by Dan Feldman

            “Players tend to peak on the offensive boards as rookies and decline from there, while defensive rebounding is generally steady from year to year.”
            -Kevin Pelton 

          • Oct 13, 20134:36 pm
            by tarsier

            Please cite for me examples of why you expect Drummond’s rebounding to improve.

            Ben Wallace ORB%:
            rookie: 15.1
            career: 12.3
            total seasons better than rookie campaign: 0
            sophomore season better? no

            Kevin Garnett:
            rookie: 9.1
            career: 7.7
            total seasons better than rookie campaign: 2
            sophomore season better? no

            Dwight Howard:
            rookie: 12.2
            career: 11.9
            total seasons better than rookie campaign: 2
            sophomore season better? no

            Tim Duncan:
            rookie: 10.5
            career: 9.9
            total seasons better than rookie campaign: 4
            sophomore season better? no

            Elton Brand:
            rookie: 13.3
            career: 11.2
            total seasons better than rookie campaign: 1
            sophomore season better? no

            Zach Randolph:
            rookie: 15.1
            career: 11.2
            total seasons better than rookie campaign: 0
            sophomore season better? no

            Hakeem Olajuwon:
            rookie: 16.9
            career: 10.3
            total seasons better than rookie campaign: 0
            sophomore season better? no

            So why exactly is it absurd to assume that a player has peaked in terms of rebounding early in his career? Clearly it is pretty common. I dare you to find me this many examples that support your case.

  • Oct 12, 20134:43 am
    by Vic

    Reply

    I absolutely love what josh smith is doing so far this preseason. 

    Hes hitting a high percentage of his 3sbecause they are open, rhythm shots with his feet set. Rest of the time he’s cutting to the basket and driving. That’s exactly what the Pistons need from him on the offensive end.

    Shooting the threes instead of the twos makes more space for DrumRoe, and it makes his cuts wider. To me it seems to be working out perfectly so far. 

  • Oct 12, 20133:18 pm
    by danny

    Reply

    JSMOOTH isn’t even concerned with what you guys think.  Yes his shots selection needs to be better but I think with our teach it will happen.  He needs the ball moving to be at his best and with the athletic players we have around him we will be fine.  It’s all about chemistry and give them some time to build some.  

    • Oct 13, 20138:53 am
      by tarsier

      Reply

      Why do you think “with our teach it will happen”? And if it’s all about chemistry, the Pistons are toast. It would take a very long time to build up how much he had in his Atlanta days.

      • Oct 13, 20131:30 pm
        by Max

        Reply

        Smith might not have been motivated the last few years though after the Hawks matched his contract against his will.   He wanted out and I don’t think players play their best or care about developing chemistry when they feel like prisoners and are just waiting to leave.    Smith’s case may not have been this stark but I do think players have to be undermined, at least at the unconscious level, when a team holds onto them after they have expressed a desire to leave.   How can they be fully committed in  such situations?   This is also true in cases like LBJ and Howard as in when they know they are leaving: their play drops since they’ve already checked out on the team mentally.   LBJ put up huge numbers his last year and playoffs with the Cavs but people employing the eye test still think he had quit on them.  For this reason, I’m hopeful of a better, more committed and spiritually healthy Smith than anyone has seen in years.          

        • Oct 13, 20132:49 pm
          by tarsier

          Reply

          Certainly a possibility, but I don’t remember any news of Smith ever wanting out of Atlanta. AS best I can recall, the Hawks had lowballed him a bit so he found a better offer elsewhere and there was never any doubt that he would remain a Hawk.

          BTW, Max, I’ll have you know that I did answer your question about injured teams making the playoffs. But then the article was no longer on the first page of PP.
          http://www.pistonpowered.com/2013/10/usa-today-calls-pistons-no-6-most-watchable-team/#comments 

  • Oct 13, 201310:49 pm
    by Max

    Reply

    I saw.  Good work.  My impression of Smith and Jennings too actually is that they weren’t happy to be playing for their teams for at least the last couple of years.   If true, it doesn’t say much for them but I hope they are happy to be in Detroit and will play better as a result.  

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