FanPost

Don't hate the player; hate the game: a deeper dive into theories about why this Josh Smith thing isn't working.

A year ago, everyone was happy! What happened?

Once upon a time in this glorious thread, after much commenting and gnashing of teeth, MFShinons* sayeth,

And you enjoy telling yourself that a guy currently taking 28 percent of his shots in the paint would suddenly take 60 percent of his shots there if he had a good coach.

And there was a quiver and quaketh in my medulla oblongata, as I-eth said-eth to myself-eth,

Er, not exactly.

What follows is my ridiculously protracted response, given in love and as much haste as I could make:

No. I'm telling you, even though I think you already know, that a basketball player's role in the offense generally dictates his offensive shot selection - again, in the general sense. I'm telling you that the coaching staff establishes scheme and philosophy, which is why the same team and players can perform differently under different coaches. I'm telling you that a team's personnel can likewise influence scheme. I'm finally telling you that the entire situation is more complicated that you're attempting to portray it.

Good Josh Smith ...

... Bad Josh Smith

In the 2008-09 season, Josh Smith attempted 1.3 three-point shots per game, taking 87 three-pointers compared to 762 two-point shots. In 2009-2010, he attempted 0.1 three pointers per game. In 2010-2011, he attempted 2.1 (and made 33% of them). I'm also telling you that Woodson's contract expired with the Hawks in 2010 and was not renewed. He was replaced by Larry Drew the following season.

Doug Collins has his own theories

In the 08-09 season, Smith was the third offensive option on the team behind Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby. Johnson took about 70% more shots than Smith, and put up a whopping 5.2 threes per game, while Bibby put up 5.4. Flip Murray, Maurice Evans, and Marvin Williams all shot more than 2.5 per game. They won 47 games, with the 10th rated offense and the 12th rated defense in the league.

Maybe coaching didn't have enough structure, or maybe it hasn't done a good enough job of adapting ...

In 09-10, Johnson and Bibby both reduced their number of threes taken to 4.6 and 4.1, respectively. But now, Jamal Crawford was in the mix. He put up 5.4 threes per game, while Mo Evans (always liked that guy) put up 2.1, and Williams shot 1.6. Josh Smith took 7 threes all year. He was still the third option, but in a much different offense. The team had a defensive rating good for 13th in the league, but they were the 2nd-rated offense. They finished 53-29, 2nd in the division. They survived a 7-game series against rookie Brandon Jennings's Milwaukee Bucks (sidebar: BJ was the only Buck who took over 1,000 shots that season, and the Bucks had the 2nd-rated defense in the league - proving definitively that team dRtg doesn't indicate individual defensive prowess by a starting point guard lol), but were swept by Orlando in the second round of the playoffs. Mike Woodson was not asked to return.

Wrong coaching emphasis?

In 10-11, Larry Drew coached the team to a 44-38 record with a 13th defensive rating and a 21st offensive rating. Bibby only played 56 games that season, and Josh Smith was now the #2 option, just barely behind Joe Johnson; Johnson took 1,161, Josh took 1,041. In this incarnation, he and Crawford exchanged offense a little bit: Jamal had taken 1,105 the season previous to Josh's 999 in 09-10. This season, however, Crawford only took 874. Smith's three-pointers were still dwarfed by JJ and Jamal: 154 to 300 and 349, respectively. Also notably, Marvin Williams was not in the starting lineup as much either, only starting 52 games and playing in 13 off the bench.

Mo Cheeks: hands tied, or tied his own noose?

Now, let's fast forward a couple years to this season. At this point, he's started as many games for the Pistons (76) as he did all of last season. He has attempted 1,233 FGs overall to last year's 1,182 in Atlanta, and 265 threes to the previous season's 201. He also has fewer rebounds, assists, blocks, and turnovers, but more steal and fouls. On this team, he leads in shot attempts at 1,233, trailed by BJ's 1,064, and Greg's 932. This team is 19th in offensive rating and 24th in defensive rating. His 265 three-point attempts are dwarfed by BJs 428 and rivaled by Kyle's 229 (with only 31 games a starter).

How does Josh's role with the Pistons this year stack up to last season with the Hawks?

Last year was another 44-38 season for Atlanta under Larry Drew, good enough for second in the division and another playoff berth. They were 18th in oRtg and 10th in dRtg, and yes, Josh's 1,182 led the team in FGAs, but was closely followed by Horford's 1,060. Here's something funny: Josh's three-pointers per game mark was SIXTH on the team among players who played significantly on that hodgepodge squad of expiring contracts. He trailed Korver (5.6 3pt FGAs/gm), Lou Williams (5.0), Devin Harris (4.0), DeShawn Stevenson (3.7 for "Mr. 50/50", shooting .374 from the field overall), Jeff Teague (3.1), and Jannero Pargo (2.9).

Did Josh exceed Drew's expectations?

So, I'm telling you to draw your own conclusions. Here's what I take from this: I think in those last years under Mike Woodson, the Hawks were desperately trying to breakthrough. As a coach seeking a contract, and then a lame duck hoping for the best and having a new weapon in Jamal Crawford, Woodson switched the style up and moved Josh's role from perimeter/floater player offensively to interior player much more. When Drew came in, he encouraged more three-point shooting, trying to take advantage of whatever tools were at his disposal, exemplified by last season when 3pt attempts were 1,901 vs 4,743 twos, both way up from the season before.

Rick Mahorn wonders how the front court can work ...

... And Smith appears to be aware of the need to figure it out these days.

I think the general experience in the NBA, and definitely on teams that Josh Smith has played on, is the team's primary scorer must generate offense from the perimeter. That's part of the role. In the NBA this season, only two players with fewer than 400 (5 per game, on average) shots outside of the painted area are in the top 40 in field goal attempts: Anthony Davis (370) and Zach Randolph (362). I agree, that if we confined Smith to the paint, where he shoots about 55-56% we'd all be a lot happier. But, the point is, in the NBA today, your primary scorer scores on the perimeter. Even Blake Griffin took 474 shots outside the paint this year. Call it a function of modern defensive capability, call it a function of the offenses currently in vogue, but whatever it is, it's real. And among the players in the top 40, no one shoots worse than Brandon Jennings: .376 to Josh's .419. Making him the primary scorer would likely be the only way to make the situation worse.

So, what happens? The team is faced with the choice of running an offense that doesn't exist in the NBA or utilizing a guy who has experience in the role and has done so on a playoff team. The only other mentionable candidates are really Kyle Singler and KCP for this role; neither of them have shown enough to be credible candidates. Despite all evidence to the contrary, there is an understandable rationale behind why Josh Smith is the team's #1 option on offense despite his historic struggles. To do otherwise would be an experiment. If I were in charge as head coach, would I have conducted that experiment at some point? I certainly would have wanted to, despite undeniable pressures to do otherwise. But, I think, in this scenario, thanks to the personnel on the roster, there were only bad choices - and we have all suffered the consequences, even Josh Smith.

At the end of the day, maybe he's still learning

*Note: This post, though it may start off kinda aggressive, is in no way shape or form, intended to be an assault on Shinons*, whom, for what it's worth, I find to be an affable presence who knows his stuff.

FanPosts are user-created posts from the Detroit Bad Boys community and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of all fans or the staff at DBB. The DBB staff reserves the right at any time to edit the contents of FanPosts as they reasonably see fit.

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