Monday, September 10, 2012

Josh and the Long Two: A Breakdown by Kirk Goldsberry

Kirk Goldsberry at Court Vision posted a breakdown of Josh Smith's shot selection over the past three seasons. This is ground that has been covered, but Goldsberry does a nice job of contrasting Smith's over-reliance on the long two with a player like Kevin Garnett, whose percentage on these shots is so high that he becomes the exception to the rule. Wrote Goldsberry:
For many NBA players, including Carmelo Anthony, FG% is a direct spatial function that should be used to indicate WHERE they are shooting as much as HOW WELL they are shooting. When players like Carmelo or Josh Smith experience a decrease in FG%, it doesn’t mean they are declining as shooters, it means they are settling for more jump shots; a precipitous decline in FG% is often caused by a similar decline in at-rim opportunities.
He also points out that Garnett's shot chart (graphics included in the link above) indicates that he takes a large number of long two's from the top of the key, where he is in position to get back on defense in case a miss is rebounded by the opposition.

We all know Josh shoots too much from the outside. If you haven't been to Hoop Data, go here and click on the "A" for attempts under 16-23 to sort by most attempts. As you can see, only Monta Ellis and Kobe Bryant attempted more shots from this distance last year than Josh. A look at the rest of the top 10 gives you a hint as to why. 

Smith's percentage is barely off Ellis' and he actually shoots for a better percentage from this distance than Anthony. I'm sure Josh is puzzled as to why he is derided for shooting from distance while Carmelo is celebrated for it. Goldsberry does a great job of explaining how Smith's love affair with the long two negatively impacts rebounding:
Those frequent misses are rebounded by the defensive team 78% of the time, which is among the highest percentages anywhere on the court; even missed 3′s provoke more offensive rebounds (23.6%) than missed long twos (22%). In other words, when you shoot a long two, your risk-reward ratio is too high.
I'll take the critique of Josh one step further. If you look at the shot chart for Game 6 where the Hawks were eliminated by the Celtics and select Josh from the drop down, you'll see that Josh shot 3-for-11 on shots outside the paint. While Josh was wasting posessions on bricked jumpers, the Celtics were converting their posessions. Thus why Josh posted a team-worst -9 in the elimination game

Go back a season to the defining game of Josh's career, Game 4 against the Bulls where he dropped 23 points with 16 rebounds to dominate the game and tie the series 2-2, and the shot chart tells a similar tale. Josh shot 1-for-6 outside the paint, scoring all but two of his points at the rim or free throw line.

Perhaps the failure to get through to Josh regarding shot selection explains why two of Larry Drew's assistants will not be returning this year. Or perhaps it's the recurring knee tendinitis that encourages Josh to avoid contact as much as possible. If that's the case, this will be a very interesting contract year for a player without the security of a long-term contract.


  1. KG has had that top of the key jumper before Paul Pierce even knew about his free throw line fade away. Fact of the matter is Josh is more valuable to the team and to himself inside the paint or slashing to the rim. We know he can make that long two, but that shouldn't be his first look. I would love to see Josh get the ball there off a screen, pump fake the shot and then either pass for a give and go or just take it straight at the rim.

  2. Some people were surprised by Josh's Game 4 against Chicago two seasons ago. A lot of people questioned his post game. It's always been there but if the coach isn't forcing the ball into the post, why fight for position? Josh's over-reliance on jumpers may be a simple function of being the behavior the coaching staff encourages.

    Instead of failing to get through to Josh about shooting more close to the basket, maybe he was just giving them what they wanted.