The Detroit Bad Boys blog has an interesting and fundamentally unsurprising post about Josh Smith and his catastrophic shooting this season. So we thought, Why not pile on? Here are a few ways in which Josh Smith is even worse than he seems in an article that concludes he's the worst three-point shooter of all time.
A quick summary of Bad Boys' analysis: Smith is on pace to shoot more than 300 threes, and has shot 23.9 percent on them this season. This would be the worst percentage of anyone who's ever taken 300 threes. In fact, it would be the worst percentage of anyone who's taken 200 threes, and if he stopped right now, only two people would have shot worse on the same 155 threes—Mike Evans and, of all people, Charles Barkley.
Just as disclosure, Josh Smith is one of my favorite players, even when he's shot-putting long, uncontested jumpers clean through the backboard at a rapid-fire clip. But what makes this season he's putting together so fascinating is that it doesn't follow the basic template that we have for terrible, high-volume three-point shooting. In a lot of ways, Josh is actually doing things right, which makes his awfulness that much more horrifying.
We don't have player tracking from before this season, but the most notorious high-rate-low-percentage three point season of all time, to this point, has been Antoine Walker, who shot 7.5 threes at 32.3 percent in 2002-03 (he averaged 7.4 and 8.0 takes the previous two years, at higher percentages), a lot coming on pull-ups. This is what you picture when you think of someone taking a ton of threes and being terrible at them, a player hanging out on the perimeter, pounding the ball, and eventually chucking a contested three from the mezzanine seats. Paul Pierce or Carmelo or Brandon Knight, just making you want to die. But that hasn't been what Josh Smith has been up to.
Of his 3.8 attempts a game, Smith is shooting 3.3 spot-up threes a game, which is 39th in the league among players who have played at least 10 games. This is a huge percentage of them coming from catch-and-shoot, which is generally an easier shot to make than a pull-up jumper. Klay Thompson, for example, is shooting 6.0 catch-and-shoot threes a game, and takes 6.4 threes a game. Both of those numbers are absurdly high, but it illustrates that effective shooters typically, as Josh Smith has this year, shoot their threes on spot-up jumpers. Josh is hitting 25.7 percent of them. Just one player in the top 100 in spot-up 3PA is worse—Tobias Harris at 19.2 percent.
Worse, he's shooting 0/7 from the left corner, and 3/12 from the right corner, for a combined 15.8 percent from corner spot-up shots. This isn't a ton of shots, obviously, but it doesn't inspire much confidence that, even with more time at power forward. Actually, Bad Boys had another post not long ago that showed Smith's offensive imprint is essentially unchanged whether he plays small forward or power forward.
Maybe the thing is that Smith, who's been a fantastic defender, is still thought of as an effective scorer if he's just in the right situation. Except, even in his best season, 2009-10, when he shot just seven threes all season, his shot chart looked like this:
That evened out to pretty good, given how many shots he took at the rim, but his true shooting percentage that year was still just 53.6. For what it's worth, though, his chart this year doesn't look much different from his charts in past years, apart from the wretched three-point shooting.
Logically, Smith's shooting should average out to something resembling an NBA player's at some point. But we're talking about Josh Smith here. Logic glanced off the rim and bounced out of bounds a long time ago.
Chart by Reuben Fischer-Baum, photo via Getty