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.

LeBron James says he has scratched cornea, could sit Saturday vs. Wizards

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With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.

It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.

 

 

That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:

LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.

James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”

He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.

The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.

And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.