Is J.R. Smith starting to live up to the hype he has generated this season?
There is a segment of NBA analysts and fans that think Smith is deserving of being in the discussion for the 6th man of the year award. He isn’t worthy of this praise, but if the way Earl has played during the Knicks’ current five-game winning streak got extrapolated over 82 games, he would have a legitimate argument.
Here is J.R’s shot chart for the season:
Here is James Harden’s shot chart:
When just going by the percentages, obviously there are a couple areas that each are better in, but on the whole, they are quite similar. The major difference is Harden’s locations of shots are concentrated at the rim and behind the three-point line, while Smith incorporates more mid-range jumpers. Harden is the optimal shot distribution of a wing player with the ability to get to the basket and a quality three point shot. Smith isn’t as good as Harden, but if he were to simulate Harden’s shot selection he would improve as a player.
This is what we have seen the past five games. Smith has averaged 22.6 points on 15 shots, while shooting 50% from the field. He has also attempted seven free throws per game. Through the entire season, J.R. is averaging 17.1 points on 15 shots, while shooting 40% from the field. The free throw attempts come in at 3.5 per game. Needless to say, his efficiency is significantly up.
This has a big part to do with where he is taking his shots.
Last 5 Games:
In 69 games, Smith has taken 36% of his shots from midrange, 18% at the rim, and 36% from three.
In the last five games, Smith has taken 29% of his shots from midrange, 36% at the rim and 22% from three.
J.R. is taking 7 percentage points fewer shots from midrange, 18 percentage points more at the rim and 14 percentage points less from three. This transfer isn’t perfect, but it is getting better. I would still like to see Smith move some of his mid range jumpers to threes. I don’t agree with him taking less three pointers, as Smith is an extremely efficient catch and shoot player from behind the arc and these opportunities should not be diluted.
It will be interesting to see if this is just a phase for J.R. or it is an adjustment to his game that will continue to progress through the rest of this season and to a further extent his career.