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Josh Smith no longer deserves to be long-2 whipping boy

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What’s the worst shot in basketball?

A long 2 taken by Josh Smith.

At least that seems to be the prevailing opinion of many.

As basketball analytics have exposed the ineffectiveness of long 2s, Smith has become a poster child for taking the shot too often. Really, all Smith’s jumpers get criticized, but his long 2s draw particular ire.

It’s time to find a new target, because Smith has made significant strides with his shot selection.

His shot chart doesn’t look great. Far from it. But its improved to the point he no longer deserves as much scorn as he gets.

Smith is still taking about the same percentage of his shots from beyond 16 feet as usual – 44 percent this season compared to 41, 45 and 44 the previous three years.

But Smith is wisely drifting back the extra few feet to get an extra point on each make and to space the floor better. Of all his shots from at least 16 feet, 61 percent are 3-pointers – by far a career high. In previous seasons, that number has ranged from 3 percent to 42 percent.

Overall, just 17 percent of Smith’s shots are long 2s, a career low.

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So Smith converting his long 2s into 3s is one thing, but should he even be taking 3s in the first place?

Probably. Or at least he can make the argument.

The Pistons, as parsed from MySynergySports, score .87 points per play excluding transition and putbacks. That way, we’re essentially looking at regular halfcourt plays.

Smith is shooting 27 percent on 3-pointers this season, .80 points per attempt. If Smith were shooting his career percentage on 3-pointers, 28, his shots beyond the arc would yield .84 points per attempt.

Both those marks fall short of .87, but I doubt the Pistons would score that much per play if Smith weren’t shooting from the perimeter.

With Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, two players who lack range beyond the paint, also starting for Detroit, the Pistons need Smith to spread the floor. He’s the best option of the three.

Smith could probably stand to shoot fewer jumpers, and of the ones he does take, more of them from beyond the arc. But he deserves a pat on the back for making significant progress in understanding and executing that.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).