Is JR Smith having a awful year, or is he just unlucky? Part 2: The long 2 and shot selection

Welcome back everybody. This is a continuing series I'm trying to do about whether J.R. Smith's awful year has been caused by bad luck (aka the random chance of sports) or by his own hand. Part 1, focused on JR's 3 point shooting and showed that yeah its a little bit of both that have caused his 3 point numbers to be down. Let's look at the long 2, what people seem to think JR's favorite shot is. Here's an updated shot chart:



Compared to last time, JR has moved into above, or at, league average in three areas in the "long two" range. But his numbers are still not as good as last year. JR has taken 44 "long twos" this year, while attempting 243 total shots. This puts his percentage of shots that are "long twos" at 18.1%.

Last year, JR attempted 330 "long twos," while attempting 1249 field goals. The percentage of shots that JR took last year that were "long twos" was 26.4%.

So in reality, JR is taking less "long twos" than he did last year, when the shot was so successful for him. He's taking much more threes this year than last year, by a wide margin. 53% of JR's field goal attempts are 3 point shots. I'm going to take a quick break from the "long two" to discuss the breakdown of JR's 3 point field goals.

According to Synergy, JR has only attempted 8 ISO 3s, 66 catch and shoot 3s, 16 3s off screens, and 18 3s out of transition. He's only made 1 ISO 3 (against the Clippers in November), and hasn't attempted one since he went 0-3 in them against Denver. They're a dumb shot, but you live with JR taking some because #yolo. JR is shooting 45.5% off catch and shoot 3s, where as last year he was shooting 37.6% off the same shot.

On screens, last year JR shot 30.2% off screens taking 43 3s while screened last year. This year he is shooting 18.8% off 3 pointers where he is screened. That's an abnormally low shooting percentage. JR in 2011-12 shot 25% off screens, but in 2010-11 shot 42.3% for 3 pointers off screens. I'm willing to chalk the 25% up to only playing 20 games during a lockout year, and say JR is going to have some of his shots of screens fall because unless he's totally lost his shot, shooting under 20% on relatively open 3 pointers is just low.

In transition JR is shooting 33.3% on 3 pointers. Last year he shot 36%. Last year, 13.7% of his 3 point attempts were in transition, while this year 13.7% of his 3 point attempts are in transition. Woah. JR is taking the same amount of transition 3s as last year, spooky. That's around 1 transition 3 attempt in every 7.5 3 point shot attempt, which is livable with, because they don't happen that often. Transition 3s also tend to occur when the other team's defense has not always been set yet, so I'd guess the percentage of them made tend to correlate with a shooter's overall three point % rate (I'll look into this for the next piece).

Overall, JR seems to be taking more catch and shoot 3s, but his 3s off screens and transition are just not falling. I'd expect the screens to increase more, which would give JR a higher 3 point shooting percentage. Otherwise, he needs to keep taking those catch and shoot 3s which he is doing. He can take 17 3s for all I care in a game, as long as 50%+ of them are catch and shoot. 50% of JRs current 3 pointers are off the catch and shoot. The others will start falling.

Back to the "long two." JR's FG% on "long twos" currently sits at 34%. The past 3 years he's been at: 42% (12-13), 39.5% (11-12 LOCKOUT SMALL SAMPLE ALERT), and 51% (!!! 10-11). Essentially, JR is shooting at his worst for the past 4 years in a shot he's very much excelled at, but he's taking less of them that he normally would. I mentioned earlier how less than 20% of JR's shots are "long twos." That could either be from him realizing that the "long twos" aren't falling and JR has compensated by shooting more 3 pointers, or shots inside the paint. (The latter will be included in Part 3 of this series so I won't be answering that quite yet). Remember, you get the same amount of points for shooting 33% on x amount of 3s as you do for shooting 50% on the same amount of 2s. JR could be seeing that his "long twos" aren't falling, and has adjusted by shooting more 3s to make up for efficiency. The problem is JR's threes haven't started falling yet, leading to his incredible inefficiency. If JR starts shooting more 2s in games, I'd expect them to start falling (that doesn't mean they will), and I've laid out why I feel JR's 3 ball will improve as well.

It doesn't seem that his shot selection is off, it just seems that he is taking less "long twos" than he historically does, and they just aren't falling compounding the issue. He isn't bricking wide open threes, or forcing himself to take ISOs on the 3 point line. In fact it seems just looking at the "long two" as a whole he should regress to his mean, which would be a better FG% from that range. Hmm.. that isn't what the eye test seems to show...

Stay tuned for the next installment: "Shot Selection 2: Electric Boogaloo." I will look at what type of shots JR is taking from inside the arc, and whether or not he should be driving more.

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