Category Archives: Follow ups

Revisiting if Roy Hibbert could block more shots than an entire team

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Zach Primozic | Flickr

Once in a while I’ll revisit weird accomplishments I thought might happen, like a team winning more games than the Celtics and Lakers combined, or impressions left on me in the beginning of the season, like Josh Smith’s once-promising shot selection. Today I’ll revisit the possibility I brought up over two months ago of Roy Hibbert blocking more shots than an entire team.

If that sounds like a lofty accomplishment for the Pacers center, that’s because it is, but it’s not impossible. The last time a player recorded more blocks than another team was in 2009 when Dwight Howard had 231 blocks to the New York Knicks’ 204. New York, coached by Mike D’Antoni with a starting frontcourt of David Lee and Al Harrington, set the record for the least blocks during an 82-game season, though it wasn’t much better the season before when they were coached by Isiah Thomas. The Knicks of 2008, with a frontcourt of Zach Randolph and Eddy Curry, blocked just 213 shots. Josh Smith (227 blocks) and Marcus Camby (285) outswatted that squad and then some.

At the time of the first post, two squads this season were in danger of becoming like the Knicks of the late-2000s: the Kings and Timberwolves. Hibbert had 62 blocks to Sacramento’s 48, though Minnesota was within distance without Ronny Turiaf and their starting frontcourt of Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic not posing much of a threat above the rim. As for the Kings, they had frontcourt depth consisting of DeMarcus Cousins, Chuck Hayes, Derrick Williams, Patrick Patterson and Jason Thompson. They come in all shapes and sizes, but none are elite shot blockers. Hayes and Patterson would eventually be traded for Rudy Gay.

Meanwhile, Hibbert was also just coming down to earth after recording 4.3 blocks per game over 30 minutes in his first 13 games. His block percentage while on the court, 10.2, had only been done over a full season six times with five coming from Manute Bol, and the most minutes played during any of those seasons was 26.1 during Bol’s 1986 campaign. Naturally, Hibbert’s block totals started to average out. He only had seven over his next six games and just two combined against the block-prone Bobcats and Timberwolves (Hibbert was also blockless Wednesday night in his second matchup against Minnesota). His block percentage during that six-game span was 2.7, right around the same percentage Paul Millsap and Chris Bosh have recorded this season. That’s not bad, but it’s also not even half the frequency Hibbert logged last season.

Note: Now is probably a good time to mention I’m not saying Hibbert or anyone else is a bad defender if/when they don’t block shots. They obviously don’t measure everything about inside defense and the same goes for looking at steals to evaluate perimeter defense. In fact, it’s pretty noticeable that Hibbert would rather be in position to use verticality to his advantage than go for a block and risk fouling. I’m also not exactly rooting for Hibbert or anyone else to block more shots if it comes at the expense of good, sound defense. It’s not the end of the world if someone does or doesn’t block more shots than an entire team, but it would be fun to talk about if it happened. Obviously, for me it’s been worth dedicating at least a couple posts just about the potential of accomplishment it.

So Hibbert went through a heater of some sort in the block department and then hit his version of a valley, averaging out to a block percentage of 8.1 through his first 18 games, according to Basketball-Reference. That rate, or one a sliver below it, would have to be sustained for a whole season to outblock a whole team. Howard, Camby, and Smith were 1-2 percentage points lower, but all played a handful more minutes per game and Camby’s Nuggets played at the league’s fastest pace in 2008. Indiana’s currently in the middle of the pack this year at 96.08, according to NBA.com, but no faster than the Kings or Timberwolves.

Hibbert’s block rates couldn’t hold up over his next 36 games, however, blocking only five percent of opposing shots in the same 30 minutes per game. For the season, his block percentage is 6.1. He’s been surpassed by a few other players in total blocks, and teams he once competed with such as the Kings and Timberwolves have since upped their blocks. Every team but Minnesota has totaled more than the 2009 Knicks did over 82 games.

Below is a table with Hibbert, a few other leading blockers, and four teams with the least blocks per game.

Player/Team Total Blocks BPG Games Block%* Minutes per
DeAndre Jordan 135 2.4 56 5.1 35.9
Roy Hibbert 133 2.5 54 6.1 30.4
Serge Ibaka 139 2.5 55 6.2 32.6
Anthony Davis 140 3.1 45 7.3 35.8
Minnesota Timberwolves 197 3.6 54 48.2
Cleveland Cavaliers 215 3.9 55 48.8
Sacramento Kings 214 4.0 54 48.5
Dallas Mavericks 228 4.1 55 48.1

* – according to Basketball-Reference.

Minnesota’s still far behind even the second-worst Cavaliers but they’ve blocked 5.4 shots per game in February, a top-10 mark in the league. They’re also in the top five in opponent field goal percentage around the rim at 57.4, though they allow the fourth most attempts so I’m not sure that’s worth the tradeoff (as well as playing without Pek). Indiana, meanwhile, has been suffocating as they’ve held opponents to just 49 percent. I’m pretty sure Hibbert and the rest of the Pacers will take that in exchange for less blocks.

Cleveland’s lacked in blocks lately, just 2.8 per game over their last 20. As nice of a player as Anderson Varejao has been, he’s never been much of a blocker yet he leads the team in that statistic. Spencer Hawes will be suiting up for them in the near future and he’s averaging 1.3 blocks per game, but the Sixers’ pace and defense have to be taken into account. Philadelphia’s the fastest team in the league by a wide margin and this month they’re flirting with last in both attempts at the rim and field goal percentage from there, all according to NBA.com. (Also, I doubt blocks are the main reason Cleveland traded for him, but this post is dedicated to those and not everything defense or the other side of the court.)

As for the players listed, it would’ve been fun if Anthony Davis were healthy the whole first half of the season. Add another 30 blocks to his total and it at least makes things interesting, especially if Cleveland continues their recent low tally in that statistic.

I guess the Brow made up for it though with this commercial:

Going forward, Davis and Jordan look like the best bets to block more shots than a team. As mentioned before, Hibbert has understandably looked to use verticality to his advantage rather than get a hand on the ball and risk foul trouble. Davis and Jordan are far more mobile and freakishly athletic to recover from situations where they’re either beat or hair late on a rotation to a driving guard. They also play in that 35-minute range that allows them more opportunities to tally blocks.

If I had to choose one or the other, though, it’d be Davis because of the likelihood his minutes not only stay the same next season but also increase. He’s also basically untradeable, something Jordan can’t say himself. Who knows if Jordan plays 36 minutes under most other coaches, which would keep him from flirting with 200 total blocks in one season.

Potential wildcards next year: JaVale McGee, Andre Drummond, and Larry Sanders. I like all of them when given the playing time and good health by the basketball gods. This season seems like a lost cause, though, which means the search for other weird stats continues.

My dream team within the salary cap (all-star weekend edition)

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Dream big, but dream within the imaginative salary cap and bargain agreement.

Before the season started, I made my dream team within the salary cap, set at $58,679,000. The only other rule was to not use rookie contracts since allowing them would turn it into an 12-man under-25 roster. It’s just too easy to make a loaded team when choosing from at least (rough guess) 25 more players outplaying their contracts.

After those rules, though, it was a free for all. Looking back on the players I chose in October, I would’ve hit some huge snags along the way, ones I could’ve gotten away with if this team were in the Eastern Conference, but still.

Here was my roster going into the season:

Starters

Bench

  • SG: Ray Allen ($3,229,050)
  • PF: Al Harrington ($1,399,507)
  • PF: Dante Cunningham ($2,000,000)
  • PG: Devin Harris ($1,272,279)
  • PG: Beno Udrih ($1,272,279)
  • SF: Ronnie Brewer ($1,186,459)
  • PF/C: Andray Blatche ($1,375,604)

Lineup: $46,262,108

Bench: $11,637,078

Total salary: $57,899,186

Amount under the cap: $779,814

Killing time on a Friday night constructing a fake NBA team: Priceless (and possibly hopeless).

Green and Kirilenko each had injury woes, which were huge losses to this team. Not having Harrington also meant the loss of the stretch four. Meanwhile, Brewer’s logging what looks like mostly garbage time with the Houston Rockets.

Basically, the defense of this team took a huge hit along with some shooting. There’s still hope, obviously, with the Curry-James-Duncan trio going strong, but the pieces around them don’t quite fit anymore. (Also, a couple salaries were off by like $100,000 since I was looking at how much they made versus how big their cap hit is. Only the latter impacts the salary cap, which makes Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin‘s situations so unique.)

Four months later, only Curry and James remain from the first edition. 10 new players will hopefully make the dream team a contender to go undefeated from now until the end of time. Below are the starters before going into depth about the reserves:

Starters

  • PG: Stephen Curry ($9,887,642)
  • SG: P.J. Tucker ($884.293)
  • SF/PF: Kevin Durant ($17,832,627)
  • Utility: LeBron James ($19,067,500)
  • C: Robin Lopez ($5,904,261)

Curry at point guard was actually a tough choice. His salary is super-friendly, but so is Goran Dragic’s ($7.5 million) and Kyle Lowry’s ($6.2 million). Going super cheap with someone like Patty Mills was also an idea running through my head.

I couldn’t pass up taking the greatest shooter alive, though, and I don’t think it’s crazy to say he is. Curry’s able to provide the best possible spacing off the ball, allowing the rest of the team to basically play 4-on-4. That’s just not fair when James has the ball in his hands with Durant also providing maximum spacing. All three can carry mediocre second units, which is nice so one could be subbed out earlier than normal to play with the reserves.

Also, if Curry slips on defense I put together some players that allow him to hide, though there have been a few writers who’ve brought up that he might be less effective defending off the ball. Whatever the case, P.J. Tucker’s one of those defenders, an incredibly cheap 3-and-D guy to start at shooting guard and beating out the one I chose before the season in Danny Green. He also excels at shooting from the left corner, the preferable one since LeBron shoots well from just about anywhere on that side of the court.

The trio of Curry, Durant, and James took up 80 percent of available cap space which, at first, made quality rim protection an issue. Durant wasn’t on the first team mostly because of the $17+ million he’s owed, but he’s been way too good to leave off twice in a row. With that in mind, I could’ve danced around rim protection by constructing a strong second unit with cheap, productive players like Andrei Kirilenko, Patty Mills, and Andray Blatche while hoping a hyper-aggressive defense by the starters make up for not having someone to deter shots at the rim without fouling.

Robin Lopez’ cap hit this year was just low enough, though, to where a coherent second unit could be built with one of Curry, Durant, or LeBron leading them. Chris Andersen was a cheaper option as a starting center, but one that would be too taxing to play more than 25 minutes a night. Somewhere between him and Joakim Noah is RoLo’s salary, and he’s easily outplayed it this season.

Also, the bench doesn’t need to be incredible when Durant, James, or Curry could lead it. It still took a while to form, though, since I had to find seven players combining for nearly the mid-level exception, or $4 million less than Kendrick Perkins’ salary. Here they are:

Patrick Beverley ($788,872)

An irritating point guard with an outside shooting touch, Beverley could be a fun compliment to Curry or lineups that want to be as chaotic on defense as possible.

Like most Rockets, his mid-range game looks non-existent as he’s shooting just 9-for-29 from that area. Take that however you’d like. He also rarely turns the ball over, one of the lowest turnover percentages among all guards, minimum 1,000 minutes. It’s a nice improvement from last year, turning the ball over nearly seven percent less this time around. (There are also some surprises on that list I linked to such as Nick Young, Avery Bradley, and Kevin Martin.)

Jon Leuer ($900,000)

Part of the All High-PER-Off-The-Bench Team with one that’s 18.1, Leuer’s another nice complimentary piece while on a great contract. He rebounds well in limited time, grabbing nine per-36 minutes and is one of the better defensive rebounders, ranking in the top-50 among forwards who’ve logged over 500 minutes.

What could make him most fun to play alongside Durant or James, though is his three-point shooting. He’s not a sniper from the corners as he’s only taken three attempts from there so far, but he’s a combined 17-for-26 from the middle and left sections above the break. Leuer’s also a good finisher in both the paint and restricted area whether it’s in the post or off the dribble with a floater. His defense is worrisome, allowing 1.18 points per possession in post-ups, according to Synergy, but his shooting should be a decent tradeoff.

Alexis Ajinca ($635,880)

I’m not sure if it’s cheating to grab a player who signed a minimum contract during the season, so I only grabbed one in Alexis Ajinca. Before grabbing Lopez, he was also an option for starting center, though his foul rate of 6.8 per-36-minutes made him an underdog to stay on the court for a good chunk of time. He also turns the ball over a ton, 28.6 times per 100 plays, according to Basketball-Reference. He’s a solid rebounder and a big body, though, which for this current team is fine as a backup.

Ajinca also has a mid-range game that looks both good and bad, 15-for-31 from that area and for better or for worse is not afraid of taking contested ones. Maybe this is something he builds on in the future? Either way, I like him paired with Anthony Davis in real life and on my team as a backup big.

Wesley Johnson ($884,293)

Johnson was taken purely for the financial reasons. It says a lot about him that he’s currently recording his highest PER ever of 11.1, but to look on the bright side he could be a fun to play alongside James and Durant thanks to his freak athleticism.

Johnson’s offense is worrisome, though. He could be entertaining as a guy cutting to the rim, capitalizing off attention drawn from others, but everything else seems questionable. He’s an average shooter from the corners and his current hot spot from three, the right side of the break, was a weak spot coming into the season (45-for-150 from 2011 to 2013).

Still, it’s not like he’d log a ton of playing time with Curry, Durant, and James already logging nearly 40 minutes each and Tucker and Beverley taking up another good chunk of playing time.

That’s my nine-player rotation, though Johnson’s minutes would be squeezed. Here are the rest who will ride the pine, though be capable safety nets if it came down to them having to play.

Kenyon Martin ($884,293)

If only Shawn Marion were affordable. Both he and Martin need to be on the same team and beat opponents with their flick-like jump shots.

Gal Mekel ($490,180)

Nick Calathes (490,180)

If not for these tiny cap hits, Jon Leuer’s off this squad in exchange for a player roughly $100,000 cheaper.

In particular, Calathes hasn’t been half-bad since Mike Conley sprained his right ankle against Minnesota, averaging 14.7 points, 4.7 rebounds, 4.9 assists, and 2.6 steals in his last seven games. He still doesn’t get to the line but the uptick in true shooting (.452 to .582), effective field goal shooting (.434 to .571), and turnovers (eight less per 100 plays) are all easy on the eyes for Grizzlies fans. Hopefully. All of those stats are according to Basketball-Reference.

But there you have it. As for the head coach I’m taking Gregg Popovich. Assistants are so hard to choose, but I like some combo of Erik Spoelstra, Tom Thibodeau, Brad Stevens, Mike D’Antoni, and Jeff Hornacek. I also prefer Hubie Brown and Marv Albert holding down the local broadcasting booth with the possibility of Grant Hill chiming in too. My sideline reporter is Craig Sager.

A look at the roster again before some added thoughts on lineups and minute allocation:

Starters

  • PG: Stephen Curry ($9,887,642)
  • SG: P.J. Tucker ($884.293)
  • SF/PF: Kevin Durant ($17,832,627)
  • Utility: LeBron James ($19,067,500)
  • C: Robin Lopez ($5,904,261)

Bench

  • PG: Patrick Beverley ($788,872)
  • PF: Jon Leuer ($900,000)
  • C: Alexis Ajinca ($635,880)
  • SF/SG: Wesley Johnson ($884,293)
  • C: Kenyon Martin ($884,293)
  • PG: Gal Mekel ($490,180
  • PG: Nick Calathes ($490,180)

Starting lineup salary: $53,576,323

Bench salary: $5,073,698

Total salary: $58,650,021

Amount under the cap: $28,979

Time spent doing this while jamming out to the music performers at the All-Star Game: Priceless (and the performances were amazing).

Crunch time lineup: James-Curry-Tucker-Durant-Lopez

My crunch time lineup is the same as the starters, though LeBron plays point guard and everyone else but Lopez moves up one position. Lots of shooting with potential for freaky defense.

Bench lineup: Beverley-Johnson-Durant-Leuer-Ajinca

The second unit was tough to form, simply because playing Johnson isn’t desirable. At the same time, he’s the only one off the bench who can play shooting guard and small forward. Sure, I could play both Durant and James 44 minutes in a Game 7 and squeeze Johnson’s minutes, but if he can make a corner three then everything’s fine.

Any one of Curry, James, and Durant could lead the bench lineup but I went with Durant. James and Leuer would be a fun pairing, but I wouldn’t want to tax LeBron since he plays point guard and power forward in other situations. Meanwhile, Curry playing point guard would put Beverley and him in awkward spots on defense.

Overall, not much of that lineup matters in a Game 7. Johnson becomes irrelevant and possibly Ajinca too.

Smallball lineup: Beverley-Tucker-Johnson-Durant-James

Chaos on defense while also having five guys who can make a three, though Tucker would have to sit in the left corner even if Durant could conceivably shoot 90 percent from there.

Curry and Johnson are interchangeable in this lineup.

Bigball lineup: James-Durant-Leuer-Ajinca-Lopez

I’m putting faith in Ajinca’s mid-range jumper here, otherwise the spacing gets thrown off. Leuer would also have to be a solid shooter from the corners, something I believe he has the potential to do but hasn’t shown it this season.

Threeball lineup: Curry-Tucker-Durant-Leuer-James

Every smallball-ish lineup featuring James and Durant just doesn’t feel like “small” because of the former being built like a train and Durant being closer to 7’0 than 6’9. With that said, this might be both a smallball and crunch time lineup along with a three-point heavy one.

Free throw lineup: Beverley-Curry-Durant-Leuer-Lopez

Curry and Durant are the main guys to have at the line. Leuer’s shooting nearly 85 percent this season, though his numbers in other years are sketchy. Meanwhile, Lopez and Beverley are 80 percent for the season. This team isn’t blowing a lead with 30 seconds left, hopefully.

I also dove into how I would allocate minutes: 38 for the trio, 30 each for Tucker and Lopez, and between 14-20 for each of the four cogs off the bench.

Hopefully this team is a little more difficult to exploit than the first. James and Durant rarely being in foul trouble makes it less risky to have only one wing off the bench, the trio should work fine off one another especially if James is driving and kicking, and Lopez-Ajinca-Martin should be enough for consistently decent rim protection.

But could this team beat one composed of aliens within the confines of another galaxy’s salary cap? That’s the real question.

Overall this was good, degenerate, maybe even idiotic fun during all-star festivities. I’d like to hope I’m not the only one who would kill a few hours by putting a salary-adjusted team together, but oh well.

Any thoughts on my roster (or even yours!) are welcome.

A follow up on the Celtics, Lakers, and what only the 2007 Mavericks have done to them

celticslogo_history3

I think I made my new Twitter avatar?

The first related post can be found here.

Nearly four months ago (!!!), both the Celtics and Lakers came into the season with very average expectations, even the possibility each could contend for a top-3 pick in this summer’s draft. Only in 1994 had both teams come close to such an occasion, when Larry Bird was two seasons into retirement and one season before a brief comeback by Magic Johnson.

But even during that season, no team accomplished the near-impossible feat of winning more games than the Celtics and Lakers combined. It’s only happened once, back in 2007 when the Dallas Mavericks won 67 games to Los Angeles’ (41-41) and Boston’s (24-58) combined 65.

It’s difficult enough to say one team could win more than any random two combined, let alone two of the most storied franchises, but right now the current chances are as good as ever. Below is table with teams with either more wins than the Celtics and Lakers combined or within reach.

 

The Lakers (18-35) are on their last legs with a depleted roster missing Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash, and even Nick Young and others while Boston (19-35) has won four of their last six, but are 6-17 in 2014 overall. The trade deadline also looms with an outside chance each franchise parts with key players, either the Lakers with Pau Gasol or the Celtics with Rajon Rondo. They also have other tradable pieces and, of course, the chance to acquire more lottery balls.

Another similar, weird accomplishment came in 1997 when the Clippers won more than the Celtics and Spurs. Maybe one day we’ll look back at 2014 when a few teams won more than the Celtics and Lakers, which is incredible in itself as both are bound to reload through the draft and free agency, but we could also say the same about a team winning more than the collective total of two teams like the Pelicans and 76ers.

Half-court heaves: A follow up on pre-season curiosity

It’s that time of the season where I’ll be following up on posts I made three to four months ago, most likely relating to predictions or curiosity about a player or team. For example, a few days ago I looked at Josh Smith’s shot selection that I was fine with in November but now fascinated by how badly it could regress. Today I’ll go even further with low-percentage shots, following up with pre-season curiosity about how players would approach buzzer-beating half-court shots in a time when efficiency is as important as ever.

With the way the heaves are counted in the stats, they create a unique conflict between a team and the player holding the ball during the final seconds of a quarter. Taking those shots with the clock winding down would obviously be efficient from a team’s standpoint. The opposition is never getting the ball back so it’s a chance for a free three points, points a team is rewarded with about 2.3 percent of the time (more on that soon). That percentage, however, has made some players hesitant to take those shots because of the harm to their individual shooting numbers.

Fast forward to now and this season’s heave total is actually on pace to match 2013’s, give or take a few attempts. Below is a season-by-season tally according to Basketball-Reference that dates back to when they first charted shots. Only attempts taken from 47 feet and beyond were accounted for, though I thought about 45 before staying literal with heaves beyond half court.

Since the league only needs five more made heaves to break the record set in 2010, I just might have to update (or not) whenever one goes in. Below are the eight players who have made shots so far.

Though my calculations might be off, to reach an effective field goal percentage of .500 we’d need one of the following two to happen:

  1. 1,562 of those 4,686 total heaves would have to go in. This is where Stephen Curry becomes useful.
  2. The actual 110 that went in would have to be worth about 42.5 points each. 2014’s “heater” took a sliver off their possible value. Coming into the season, they would’ve been worth closer to 43. Whatever. This is where Curry would become VERY useful. Jamal Crawford, too.

In the first post about the heaves, I wrote that the impact of those shots to a player’s shooting stats isn’t as big of a deal as they might think and both past and current all-stars like Jason Kidd, Ray Allen, LeBron James, and Kobe Bryant all have taken over 30 career heaves from beyond half court (all the cool kids are doing it!). Unfortunately, that alone likely wouldn’t encourage more shots. A better chance would be implementing a rule that treats heaves like how baseball treats sacrifice bunts and flies. If the shots go in they’ll count and if they miss it’s absent from the stat sheet.

Regardless, now that the season’s over halfway done we can look at how heaves have affected three-point percentages so far. Below is a table featuring every player who has taken three or more shots from half court and beyond.

Most players’ three-point percentages change by less than one point and each team still has 30 or more games to go, so there’s plenty of time for the impact of heaves to look even smaller.

Lance Stephenson arguably has the most at stake, though, as he hangs around league-average three-point shooting while on an expiring contract. Reggie Jackson (who leads the league in heaves this season with seven) and Alec Burks are other players to watch, but a few missed buzzer-beaters shouldn’t matter for others. Guys like Andre Miller (the most notorious heaver with over 100 career attempts) and Tyreke Evans, for example, aren’t known for their range. Their percentage from 50 feet out is roughly the same from 25, well almost. Looking at the table, Tony Wroten‘s actually a close call.

Those who are the most negatively affected by heaves are probably sports bettors who have the under on a point total and fantasy basketball owners of players who take last-second shots. A fantasy team with Evans, Miller, and Burks might have to punt three-pointers and maybe even points, though the latter wouldn’t be the case if half-court heaves were worth over 40 points.

Josh Smith’s shooting has reached it’s low point, or has it?

Keith Allison | Flickr

Keith Allison | Flickr

Three months ago I dedicated a post to Josh Smith’s shot selection, back when it wasn’t so rough on the eyes. The newly-signed Pistons forward hoisted 23 threes through the first three games of the season but the mid-range attempts were mostly absent. A long shot to be an above-average shooter, having Smith take a step behind the line instead of taking 20-foot two-pointers was a step in the right direction, one that would yield more points per attempt from jump shots he’d have to take when playing alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond. It was a hopeful sign of efficiency.

Fast forward to now. Smith’s recording career-lows in PER, true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage, and free throw rate. His threes and shots in the dead zone combine for about half his field goal attempts, most of them being bricks that create shot chart blood. However, the floor on Smith’s three-point percentage is most remarkable, possibly still untapped despite being on pace to be the worst three-point shooter of all time by a whole two percentage points, minimum 200 attempts. His 166 tries have dropped 23.5 percent of the time but the monthly splits worsen each month:

smithgraph1

Smith’s just 16-for-87 beyond the arc (18.4 percent) over his last 30 games. SportVU lists him as the worst three-point shooter in catch-and-shoot situations (24.7 percent) among the top 100 players in attempts, with teammate Charlie Villanueva second to last. His percentages are even worse in pull up attempts, though those shots have rarely occurred and it’s common for players to struggle shooting off the dribble versus a pass.

The good news is that Smith’s three-point rate is dropping. Here’s a table of those monthly splits with his mid-range rate and free throw rate included, via NBA.com. (I left out October and February because small sample size.)

smithgraph2

The three-point rates in December and January match up with Smith’s last season in Atlanta. Maybe they have to do with Detroit’s big three of Smith, Drummond, and Monroe playing together less frequently each month. According to NBA.com, the trio was together 18.7 minutes in November, 16.2 in December, and 15.0 in January. Neither monthly split yielded positive results, though that’s not 100 percent on Smith. The trio needs to be severely staggered, and Brandon Jennings at point guard hasn’t helped any.

The other evil in Smith’s game is the mid-range shot. The heater from that area of the floor last month, one that gave him a nice uptick in true shooting percentage was obvious, possibly even fatal fool’s gold after last night’s performance in Miami. Smith’s never shot better than 39 percent from mid-range in a single season, and there’s a chance if the three-point line was shortened like it was from 1995 to 1997 that he’d likely experience little to no improvement like players listed here.

As disappointing as Smith’s shooting has been, he’s not the sole reason for Detroit sitting in ninth place behind Charlotte and Washington. His shooting is costly but he would have more to offer if he wasn’t playing small forward over half the time, a position that helps neglect the skills he provides on both offense and defense. The Pistons, however, are going nowhere unless a third of its frontline is shipped out. Trading Smith would be impressive when he’s on the books until 2017 at $13.5 million a pop, but Monroe seems like the most moveable piece given his looming, steep raise next summer, one possibly not worth it given the holes in his defense.

Then again, the same could’ve been said about Smith’s contract and whether or not it’s worth paying him to play on the perimeter. Joe Dumars must’ve thought it was but the results, at least on offense, have been a three-month migraine. There’s plenty of room for improvement in Smith’s shooting with some of it bound to happen given how bad things have become, but the slight possibility that the worst-case scenario remains to be seen is amazing in itself.

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