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

16 Comments

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.

Announcement: Pro Basketball Talk’s partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $50,000 Fantasy Basketball league for Friday night’s games. It’s $25 to join and first prize is $7,500. Starts at 7pm ET on Friday. Here’s the FanDuel link.

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.