Josh Smith rises to take a long jumper, and the crowd groans. That's the home crowd groaning of course, and it's an occurrence that has occurred time and time again over Smith's career.
Smith has always been a bit of an enigma given his immense physical gifts. He's 6'9, strong and blessed with loads of athleticism, but for some reason, he has had a penchant to float on the perimeter and launch jumpers. This strategy wouldn't even be all that ideal if Smith was a good shooter, but he's not even a respectable one.
Smith's love for jumpers is one of the reasons why the Atlanta Hawks had no problems saying goodbye this offseason, when the 28-year-old signed a four-year, $54 million deal with the Detroit Pistons. The Hawks replaced Smith with Paul Millsap on a much more affordable deal, and based on the early returns, they have to be pretty pleased with how things are going.
In Detroit, there were huge questions about how Smith would fit with Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe. And early on, things were really ugly. In the month of November, Smith shot 38.1 percent overall and 25.4 percent from three. That 25.4 percent mark came on 4.5 attempts per game, an unacceptable amount given the hideous success rate.
The struggles continued into December, forcing Pistons head coach Maurice Cheeks into trying to find a solution. Naturally, Cheeks went to Smith and talked about initiating more offense on the block, according to Brendan Savage of MLive.com:
"We talked about it," Cheeks said, "putting the ball in his hands a little bit more and trying to get him off the perimeter ... to try and get him on the block a little bit more. Just give him a little more opportunity scoring wise
"I went to him. We just talked about what we can do to get him better, get him better shots, get him more comfortable on the block. It was a two-way conversation, what I could do to make him better because him better makes us better.
"I just looked at his numbers in Atlanta and figured out what I could do to get him better shots."
Prior to the 111-109 overtime loss to the Blazers on Sunday, 54.0 percent of Smith's shots came from either mid-range or beyond the arc, according to NBA.com's stats page. Smith's shooting percentage on those shots? A woeful 25.4 percent.
Against the Blazers and Pacers, only 39.1 percent of Smith's shots came from those areas, according to NBA.com's stats page. Meanwhile, he went 10-of-11 in the restricted area and 19-of-28 in the paint. In the two games, he averaged 30.5 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 56.5 percent from the field.
Smith did still take four threes in the big 101-96 victory over the Pacers and disappeared down the stretch against the Blazers, taking just one shot in the fourth quarter and overtime. However, it's encouraging on the whole to see Smith be a little more willing to play to his strengths in the paint. There's always a chance, probably a good one, Smith reverts back to form, but perhaps Cheeks has gotten him to turn a corner.