Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Listen to Your Chart: Josh Smith

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Josh Smith and his shot selection have been an easy scapegoat for the Pistons' struggles on the offensive end of the floor this season.  It's no secret that Smith is a poor fit for the SF position due to his lack of range past 20-feet in catch-and-shoot situations, and his utter lack of ability to shoot off the dribble consistently.  Smith is on track to set career lows in TS% (46.3) and eFG% (44.4).  Smith has never been a great shooter, but he's yet to be quite this bad in a season.  Let's take a look at where he has been shooting poorly from (spoiler alert: almost everywhere) and where he needs to be taking more of his shots from.

Josh Smith 2013-14 Shot Chart (via vorped.com)

Josh Smith 2013-14 Shot Frequency by Zone

I'm tempted to just write " :( " and leave it at that.  Only on this year's Pistons team could a guy as good as Josh Smith is in the paint not take more than 70% of his shots from there.  Those sections aren't just green because he's above 50%, they're green because he's above the league average from that spot.  I really wonder if Josh Smith has ever seen his own shot chart.  If he has, I'd like to hire somebody his size to punch him right in the mouth.

The average distance from the hoop for a Josh Smith shot is 12 feet, and only 50.8% of his attempts come within 10 feet of the hoop.  Josh Smith's shot selection would be Exhibit A if you were trying to prove that the Pistons don't do much in terms of looking at things other than raw numbers to analyze their players.  Any Hawks fan who had watched a game in the last eight years could have drawn a rough sketch of this shot chart if you had told them Josh Smith would be playing Small Forward.  Joe Dumars: Dumber than the average Hawks fan.

Josh Smith 2011-12 Shot Frequency by Area
Josh Smith 2013-14 Shot Frequency by Area

Smith's best shooting seasons in Atlanta came in 2009-10 and 2011-12, when he minimized the amount of threes he took.  Smith didn't trade his shots from behind the arc for shots in the restricted area; rather, he traded those shots for mid-range jumpers.  I don't believe this is a function of Smith focusing on increasing mid-range shots, but instead is the result of Smith cutting down on threes and not finding an increase in the amount of good looks in the paint.

Even though Smith didn't get more good looks in the restricted area, he did manage to improve his efficiency by trading threes for mid-range shots.  This appears to be the best-case scenario with Smith.  He managed a 54.0 TS% in the 2011-12 season. Not going to lead the league by any stretch, but a large step up from what he's done this season.  The offense needs to be set up so Smith is standing in the mid-range area when he catches the ball, and not beyond the arc.  Not only does that limit his three-point attempts, but it also gets him a step closer to the basket to start his drives when dribbling, which would stretch the defense off of shooters, if the Pistons had any.  This would also likely cut down on turnovers caused by losing his dribble, which account for 36.4% of his turnovers.  Josh Smith isn't as broken as he seems, just a product of a bad fit.

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