Is JR Smith having a awful year, or is he just unlucky? Part 1: 3 Point Range

So J.R. Smith has been bad. Very bad. Like really, really bad. He's got -.4 offensive win shares through 20 games, which is like Sebastian Telfair bad.

JR Made some recent quotes about how he feel's he's been unlucky, so let's look at his shot charts from his time as a Knick, and some other numbers to see if he's just going through the worst cold slump ever, or if JR is actually just bad this year.



That's JR's current shot chart, or as I like to call it a "shart." That's a whole lot of Red. Let's compare it to last year:



Damn, JR. Last year you were pretty good except for that left corner 3 and right around the foul line. Everything else was comparable or better than league average.

Just looking at JR's shot chart, the striking difference is the total failure from the long two range, and how he spreads out his 3 point attempts. Last year JR took 53% of non corner threes from the left side, 13% from the center, and 34% from the right side. This year, we see 46% from the left side, 25% from the middle, and 29% from the right side.

A big spike in the middle, where JR shot the lowest on 3 pointers in 2012, could help describe why his 3PT% is so low, but the main culprit is probably his lack of success from the right side of the 3 point arc. JR in every year since 2007-08 (because I stopped going back after that) has been at or above league average from the right side of the three point arc. Shooting a paltry 25.1% from there this year, seems to be a major outlier considering his worst season at that spot was still 7% higher and during a lockout which means its prone to randomness. JR 's shots from his best side just aren't falling.

There could be two explanations for this. 1. Maybe defenses realize JR likes to shoot from here, and have guarded him, which would explain why he's not shooting that many of his 3 pointers from this side. 2. Maybe JRs shots from here aren't falling, so he's shooting from the left side, and doing so incredibly well. He's very effective from the left side, and is hitting corner threes!

JR Smith is taking the most 3s per game of his career. 3 pointers account for over 54% of his shot attempts (I'm actually ok with this in a vacuum), but from one consistent side they just are not falling. I think with his three point selection, JR needs to stop taking as many shots from the top of the arc (shot selection), and needs to accept that his right side behind the arc shots will start falling.

In terms of efficiency a 3 pointer is better than a long 2, and despite what people think I think JR knows this too. That could explain the spike in his 3 point product, but I think the main culprit here is that JRs twos are just not falling. Jr's 3PT% is .336. That will normalize a bit higher which is his career average. The one other time it didn't , concidently, is the time JR took 6+ 3s a game (2009-10). In that year he shot .338 from three, and was pretty meh behind the arc. He made up for it with great corner 3 shooting, and a .414 shooting percentage from 2. JR is shooting .333 from 2 point range which is just bad. I'm going to do more digging and will do a part 2 on this don't worry.

That year he still ended up with an eFG% of .491 (Vs .425 this year), and a TS% over .500. JRs numbers are down everywhere this year, and only slightly in 3 point range despite taking more 3s than every year in his career but one. History shows his 3 point FG% will rise, and we've still got 50 games to see that. If it does, JR will make out just fine to be honest. He needs to improve his shot selection (maybe take more than 3 right side corner 3s JR! You're pretty good there in your career!), but that is just a slight reason why his 3 numbers are down.

Conclusion? Based on what we've seen JR is a bit unlucky here due to history and his distribution. It's on him to shoot in the areas he's more historically comfortable, but Woodson could also run plays to get JR in these areas. There is no reason to suggest that JR will get worse at 3, or he shouldn't keep shooting from there. More right corner 3s Jr, keep exploiting the left side of the arc hot area, and please JR stay away from the middle, your right side of the arc numbers WILL rebound!

I don't have enough information to write about JR's long two woes, so that will be coming soon. Stay tuned!

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