Josh Smith shoots too many perimeter jumpers. Everyone knows that.
But his jump shot is bad, even close to the basket. Here’s a shot chart showing only Smith’s jumpers, via Vorped:
Just look at all that red.
Smith has actually shot better on jumpers outside the paint, 26.4 on 2-pointers and 26.1 on 3-pointers, than on jumpers in the paint, 24.1 percent. Though that might be a sample-size issue, his flaws show in all his jumpers.
He launches them flat-footedly, and they often fall way short, a sign he doesn’t use his legs enough. He compensates with a slingshot release for the lack of power coming from his legs, which doesn’t help matters.
Against Portland, however, Smith went into the post a lot, and got positive results. What really struck me was how good his hook shot looked – even when backing down Nicolas Batum and Wesley Matthews, two good wing defenders and the type of opponent Smith is often matched up against.
Really, Smith has been good on hook shots all season. This shot chart shows only hook shots, via Vorped:
Smith has attempted 52 hook shots this season, making 29 – a whopping 65.9%. Furthermore, this puts him at 1.12 points per shot, much better than the 0.77 per play (via www.SynergySports.com) he scores on all post-ups (though that includes turnovers and shooting fouls drawn).
Smith’s eight hook shots outside the paint weren’t horrible shots, but all came from the left baseline, which is an incredibly tough shot. Getting to the middle of the floor is definitely preferable.
Including all Smith’s hooks is still a small sample, and in the previous two seasons, he just shot just 41 percent and 48 percent on hooks. But even if his 2013-14 percentage decreases a bit, it would still be his best one-on-one move by a landslide.
Let’s look more closely at what makes Smith so efficient on post-ups and hook shots, using this play against Portland as a case study:
When Brandon Jennings crosses halfcourt, Smith is already in a post-up position. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is on the opposite side of the wing to space the floor, and Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe will take their respective spots in the halfcourt set.
Notice how cohesively Portland defends already. They are moving in perfect unison in transition defense.
Jennings passes the ball to Smith in the post when there are about 20 seconds left on the clock. Smith is being defended by Wesley Matthews in this instance. Previously, Batum had been guarding him. Smith used a spin move around his defender a couple of times for easy buckets, which is why Matthews opens up the middle, were two capable help defenders wait (i. e. Robin Lopez and LaMarcus Aldridge).
Smith takes his time to read the defense. Monroe and Drummond are positioned approximately at the top of the key. Monroe poses at least a mild threat as a shooter from there, though Drummond obviously does not. But more on Drummond in a minute. Aldridge and Lopez stand in a perfect line, so a skip pass to Caldwell-Pope is not an option here.
When Smith commences his dribble, Mo Williams leaves Brandon Jennings to double Smith in the post. Notice how much the defense collapses – all five Blazers are within a couple of feet. Yet, the only available pass is to Jennings, because there is simply no space for Monroe to cut to the basket.
Smith does a great job of waiting a second for the zone to clear. If Portland had doubled him, he probably would have passed to Jennings for an open 3-pointer. Williams, however, leaves Smith to get back to Jennings. Aldridge has to leave the paint to avoid a three-second violation. Lopez is tied to Drummond.
Drummond is such a strong offensive rebounder, which prevents his defenders from leaving him, despite of his lack of a jump shot. Whenever his defender leaves him, Drummond crashes the board hard to get putbacks or tip-ins.
Smith starts his move just when Aldridge leaves the paint. Aldridge is in no position to recover in time to challenge the shot. Matthews is too small to cover the hook shot. Smith draws the foul and releases a pretty hook shot for an and-1.
When posting up in or near the paint, Smith is very good post player. At his best, he uses his incredibly good footwork to quickly spin around defenders. As a countermove, he has his hook.
Unfortunately, he too frequently opts for jump shots or just does not want to fight for position and posts up 20-plus feet away from the basket.
But as this example shows, even when Smith shares the court with Monroe and Drummond, the spacing provided by the frontline is just enough to create sufficient room for the offense to work. That’s one excuse that shouldn’t prevent Smith from taking his most-efficient shots.
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