A Closer Look At J.R. Smith

 

Fresh off an 0-3 road trip that LeBron James labeled as “trash”, questions that have bubbled below the surface for a while have understandably begun to pop up for the Cleveland Cavaliers. Should Tristan Thompson play over Channing Frye? How will the return of Isaiah Thomas affect the matchup between the two teams? Has the bench really improved when it matters most? One question that has been in the back of minds of those that follow the team is undoubtedly, what’s going on with J.R. Smith?

It’s understandable that Smith’s 0-for-5 effort against the Warriors may have drawn attention to that concern. Heading into the new year, Smith is shooting just 38% from the field and 35.7% from deep on the season, numbers that are only slightly better than his dreadful performance last season. The difference is that last season, Smith was dealing with injuries and serious family issues that prevented him from building any momentum on the court until the playoffs. This season, Smith has been mostly healthy, yet appears to still be struggling, but is he really?

Smith’s absymal start to the season has been a huge drag on his shooting percentages. In seven October games, he shot just 26% from the floor (7.7 field goal attempts per game) and 17% from three (five attempts per game). While some of this may have been due to Smith (reluctantly) coming off the bench for the first time since joining the Cavaliers in early 2015, he has always started the season slowly. In fact, in 14 seasons, Smith has only shot above 40% from the field once for the month of October, and has only done so seven times in November and five times in December in his 14 seasons. The man is nothing if not a slow starter who typically heats up a bit in the second half of the season.

Still, Smith typically has shot well from the outside as the New Year has drawn closer, and that has also been the case this season. It’s been hard to notice without looking at the numbers, but Smith has shot just over 40% from three on over five attempts per game in November and December, which is higher than his career average of 37.3%. Considering Smith’s poor overall field goal percentage, one would assume he is still shooting poorly on two-point shots, and while that would be somewhat true (he’s well below his career average of 46.4% on two-point shots), his 43.8% shooting percentage on two-point shots is actually the same percentage he his during the 2015-2016 championship season. His True Shooting Percentage from November on is 55.6%, which is higher than his career average with the Cavaliers and higher than he has posted since the 2008-2009 season. Over the last two months, Smith has basically been the same shooter he’s always been for the Cavaliers, albeit on a lower volume of shots.

The issue that is causing Smith’s shooting percentages to remain so low for the season is simply that he hasn’t gone on a hot streak yet. If this seems like an overly simple explanation, that’s because it is. Despite ranking 12th all-time in three pointers made, Smith isn’t the kind of consistent shooter that Kyle Korver is. He tends to have stretches of absolutely torrid shooting that raise his percentages to acceptable levels. While Smith has shot the ball well for the last two months, he has yet to go on the kind of roll of high volume shooting where he is making the kinds of shots that have the fans and media simply shaking their heads. Unfortunately for Smith, there are several signs that such a hot streak may never come.

One reason that Smith may not go on that kind of hot streak is that he simply doesn’t get the same amount of shots that he used to. Over the last few seasons, Smith has typically been the Cavaliers’ fourth option on offense, behind LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love. This season, even without Irving, Smith is currently behind James, Love, Dwyane Wade, and Kyle Korver in the offensive pecking order. One could make the case that Jae Crowder and Jeff Green are ahead of him as well. The impending return of Isaiah Thomas will only push Smith further down the pecking order, possibly reducing his role in the offense even more. Smith’s 7.4 field goal attempts per game this season are already his fewest since his second season in the league with the New Orleans Hornets, and four fewer shots per game than he took during the championship season of 2016. While the argument can be made that the Cavaliers should get Smith more shots, they rank third in the NBA in offensive rating as it is, so it’s doubtful that Smith will become a greater focus of that offense.

Another issue is that Smith has seemingly become a more hesitant shooter at some points this season. This was never more evident than on Christmas Day against the Warriors, when Smith started the game 0-for-5 from the field (and 0-for-4 from three) and subsequently stopped shooting. One could make the argument that Smith knew his shot was off that game and didn’t want to hurt the team. You could also make the case that a more discerning shot selection would allow a player to improve their efficiency by eliminating bad attempts. However, we know that’s not how Smith’s offense—particularly his outside shooting—works. Smith is at his best when he is shooting with confidence and abandon, making shots that others wouldn’t even think of attempting. A hesitant Smith means that he is lacking confidence in his shot, and is unlikely to get hot from deep. Meanwhile, a gunning Smith means that, for better or worse, anything can happen.

To his credit, Smith has accepted his lesser role on offense, talking about how he has become a defense-first player, and has worked hard both on and off the court for the Cavaliers after having a turbulent career prior to coming to Cleveland. Unfortunately, his defense seems to have slipped a bit this season (possibly due to age, at 32 is likely nearing the end of his career), and has never been the kind of defender to slow down an elite scorer. Still, if Smith seems to continue to have the trust of coach Tyronn Lue, and if he can get back to being the three-point gunner he has been the last few years with the Cavaliers, that would give an already tremendous offense another useful weapon.

 

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Nate Smith
Admin
9 months 20 days ago

James can’t buy a call. Refs have it in for him.

Nate Smith
Admin
9 months 20 days ago

TT bricks an elbow J.

Nate Smith
Admin
9 months 20 days ago

LeBron is ticking me off tonight. No D. Selfish o.

Nate Smith
Admin
9 months 20 days ago

Twozus!

Nate Smith
Admin
9 months 20 days ago

It! Drains it!

Nate Smith
Admin
9 months 20 days ago

Wow. Nice finish.

\"newnomad\"
Guest
\"newnomad\"
9 months 20 days ago

hoping– ( you will be there evil so make it happen )– when IT enters the game that the ” Q ” IS WILD / ELECTRIFIED —GIVES HIM ONE HELL OF A WELCOMING !!!!!!

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
9 months 20 days ago

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
9 months 20 days ago

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
9 months 20 days ago

\"newnomad\"
Guest
\"newnomad\"
9 months 20 days ago

said recently—with the # 1 and # 4 pick— this is do or die for the browns franchise —have to get it right this year ( and also with all those other picks )

Raoul
Guest
Raoul
9 months 20 days ago

Keeping Hue is very likely a disaster. He should be fired for a dozen reasons.

\"newnomad\"
Guest
\"newnomad\"
9 months 20 days ago

klove eating sea bass again ?

JRL
Guest
JRL
9 months 20 days ago

Not trying to talk football but how can Cleveland fans even consider buying season tickets? How does this organization continue to stick it to the fans, but fans, like zombies, continue to buy tickets and show up to the games?

Stop going to the games and stop buying their merchandise. They’ll get the shit together quickly or sell to someone who cares.

Raoul
Guest
Raoul
9 months 20 days ago

What do you care? I was in Indians fan through the 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s. Still am.

JRL
Guest
JRL
9 months 20 days ago

Angry much?

Glad you are still a fan of the Indians, you should be, at least they try. Being a fan of the Browns and continuing to support that shit-show of an organization is ludicrous.

TheOtherJason
Member
TheOtherJason
9 months 20 days ago

the same huckster who coined the term “fairweather fan”, as if its a point of pride to watch something be done poorly

JRL
Guest
JRL
9 months 20 days ago

Sorry Jason, not following you here.

JMay
Editor
9 months 20 days ago

Other than masochism and hope, probably just a fear that when they sold, they’d move the team again…

Gordon
Guest
Gordon
9 months 21 days ago

Question: Who would fit better on Cavs and why? DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond?

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

Jordan, better defender.

JRL
Guest
JRL
9 months 20 days ago

Jordan is a better overall player. So, Jordan.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

So hopefully Frye and Osman get some extended run tonight, if Love is out.

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

So he’s probably not going for 34 points in the first quarter tonight:

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

JMay
Editor
9 months 21 days ago

Worst answer I’ve heard in a long time…

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

Anyone going to the 0-16 parade on Saturday?

\"newnomad\"
Guest
\"newnomad\"
9 months 21 days ago

the more I listen—read some of IT’S quotes / comments –the more impressed I am with him as a PERSON —refreshing to have that optimistic / positive attitude in a professional athlete !!

Raoul
Guest
Raoul
9 months 21 days ago

Agree again. What a contrast to DRose.

\"newnomad\"
Guest
\"newnomad\"
9 months 21 days ago

evil welcome back to “northern ohio — frozen tundra “–you miss that warm west coast weather yet ?—think we need to keep our expectations low / in perspective on IT’S—return otherwise we are apt to go in immediate panic mode —also think for 2 reasons it is smart not to play him tomorrow night in boston –1)–of course the injury –2) the pressure of going back to boston / revenge mode / showing up —or at least proving the trade was a good trade might be too much —too soon —-let him do that come playoff time GO CAVS !!!

Raoul
Guest
Raoul
9 months 21 days ago

Agree with nn. Give Lue some cred for good thinking.

JMay
Editor
9 months 21 days ago

I don’t expect a whole heck of a lot tonight. Like EG said, he’s gonna be on limited minutes anyhow. I don’t think we’ll get real IT for a month or two.

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

Portland beat Chicago last night in OT. So maybe they’re tired. I was at the last Cavs-Blazers game in CLE, when Love had 34 in the 1st Q.

EvilGenius
Admin
9 months 21 days ago

I’ll be at the game tonight… can’t wait to see IT in action… even if limited minutes…

TV63
Guest
TV63
9 months 20 days ago

Alright!! Take some pics!!

Arch Stanton
Member
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

Nice. Welcome home.

EvilGenius
Admin
9 months 21 days ago

They’re gonna get Lillard back tonight though… and he should be ready to go after five games off…

TheOtherJason
Member
TheOtherJason
9 months 21 days ago

we’ll put our top notch defensive backcourt on him

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

Man NBA 2K18 seems to think the Pacers are the second coming of the 95 Bulls.

\"newnomad\"
Guest
\"newnomad\"
9 months 21 days ago

will it figures that “team up north ” would ruin the big ten’s perfect bowl record —go blue—ha-ha

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago
JRL
Guest
JRL
9 months 21 days ago

Can’t wait.

\"newnomad\"
Guest
\"newnomad\"
9 months 21 days ago

let’s make IT happen—-welcome to “the land ” / welcome back to the court !!!

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

He’s he officially back?

Jason
Guest
Jason
9 months 21 days ago

I still have hope for JR. But we cannot play stupid & beat GSW. Or lazy. The leaders of the bonehead brigade (Shump & JR) are both overpaid. No one in their right mind would trade for either, so we are stuck with them unless we attach an asset. Which is stupid given Bron’s status.

Changes will come next year. Barring a trade coming into our laps.

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

I wouldn’t put JR in the same was category as Shump. And I could see a handful of teams maybe interested in him, if we were looking to dump $ and rebuild, by trading for expirings.

Jason
Guest
Jason
9 months 21 days ago

Tonight:
Magic at Nets (b2b)
Blazers at Bulls (b2b)
Lakers at Wolves (both b2b)

A magic win would be nice.

Jason
Guest
Jason
9 months 21 days ago

Light night in the association. Though the Nets play. Wins:
10 = Hawks
11 = Lakers (to Bos if 2-5, Philly other)
12 = Grizz, Magic, Kings
13 = Mavs, Hornets, Nets, Bulls
14 = Suns

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

JR always starts the season slow. He’s done this throughout his career. I expect him to improve as we move forward.

\"newnomad\"
Guest
\"newnomad\"
9 months 21 days ago

a ‘chrystal ball” look at the summer (future ) 2018 cavs—–king james gospel

warriorsfan
Guest
warriorsfan
9 months 21 days ago

Happy New year to CtBers.

Cavs have had like 2nd easiest schedule(courtesy: teamrankings.com) and they have 3rd best record in east and things are not looking up. Get some rotational players. Trade away some players that Lue shouldn’t be playing and in process make Lue a better coach than he is by forcing his hand. It is a bummer if Lebron doesn’t have good role players around him in his what could be his last year with Cavs. Try to trade Kevin Love for an all star player who is actually a C and plays D, like may be Marc Gasol. How is Isaiah Thomas going to help Cavs on defense ? Cavs are already good on offense where Isaiah shines but can potentially make Cavs even worse team on defense.

Cavs need to make trades. On positive side, you still have a once in a generation player you have the privilege of watching him play for your team.

Simmo
Guest
Simmo
9 months 21 days ago

Here’s another stat courtesy of teamrankings.com: Two GSW starters are in the top five for technical fouls. I’m legit concerned that this habit might cost the team in a tight playoff game. Perhaps some trades need to be made?

warriorsfan
Guest
warriorsfan
9 months 21 days ago

Oh, Kerr got that covered, Kerr will plug in from 3rd string team for those players like he started McCaw and Bell against Cavs.

Raoul
Guest
Raoul
9 months 21 days ago

Come on WF, you are yammering. How is IT going to help on D? News Flash: IT is here to help on O.

warriorsfan
Guest
warriorsfan
9 months 21 days ago

Raoul, happy new year. Do Cavs need help on O ? I see one area where IT will help, keep Lebron fresh if Lue can afford some rest to Lebron so Lebron can play both ends of the floor without taking off on possessions. Lebron and Harden, the minutes leaders do take possessions off by design, the in game rest.

Arch Stanton
Guest
Arch Stanton
9 months 21 days ago

No thanks on trading Love for Gasol. I’m down with trading any combination of TT, Rose, and Shump. They are what’s hurting this team.

Vintage
Guest
Vintage
9 months 22 days ago

Enjoyed that “Craziest JR 3 pointers” video – it’s amazing how pure some of those high difficulty shots are… literally nothing but net. So many of those highlights are in the playoffs too.

I actually think IT’s return will help JR – so much attention will be on LBJ, IT, and Love – as long as the ball keeps moving, JR should get some wide open shots and get his confidence back up.

TheOtherJason
Member
TheOtherJason
9 months 22 days ago

I think you failed to mention he has the worst PER, winshares, and wins above replacement of any NBA starter. He is almost literally the worst starting player in the NBA. Certainly for $12M he is

Also, I think “Unfortunately, his defense seems to have slipped a bit this season” may qualify for understatement of the year.

All this from a guy who held a sign this preseason that said ‘jr smith is my spirit animal’ – no one is more dissapointed than I am how bad he is

TheOtherJason
Member
TheOtherJason
9 months 22 days ago

also i actually bought a song called ‘so right – the jr smith song’ in itunes. give it a listen if you havent heard it before :)

that video of good jr smith shots made me miss him

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