Nobody likes shooting contested shots more than J.R. Smith.
Over the last few years, the look of basketball has gone through a tremendous shift. What used to be contested mid-range jumpers are now being exchanged for spot-up threes.
J.R. Smith does those well, too — but it’s not what he enjoys. His best skill as a player is being able to make shots from the same areas with a defender draped all over him.
Smith has been one of the poster children for the low-quality shots that make coaches cringe, but it’s become a strength for him late into his career and is part of the reason why he’s starting in Cleveland again. And now, he’s leaning into it!
Smith mentioned his catch-and-shoot ability along with him being able to guard the best offensive guard as things he’d bring back to the starting lineup.
But when asked if he thought the team maintained its identity as one of the best three-point shooting teams in the league despite their struggles with spacing the floor this season, Smith dropped this bomb.
“I think it’s just a matter of us getting open shots. Everybody doesn’t like shooting contested threes like myself. Getting open shots, and then guys having the confidence to make them,” Smith said.
This is not the first time Smith has re-branded his shot selection. He has a history of letting us know he’s ready to let it fly whenever.
“When in doubt, shoot”
Those were the wisest words Smith has ever given us. When the Cavaliers traded for him in January 2015, some speculated that Smith couldn’t fit on a team with LeBron James because of his erratic shot selection.
And it looked like that was the case for a while. In his first game as a Cavalier against the Rockets, Smith went 0 for 5 from the field in 18 minutes and didn’t seem to mesh at all.
When asked what adjustments he would make moving forward, Smith’s answer was honest and so J.R. Smith.
"Worse come to worse ... my motto is, 'When in doubt, shoot the ball,'" Smith said "So when in doubt, I'm going to shoot it, and hopefully that don't catch nobody off guard."
Open shots are boring
This is the code that Smith lives by. If a shot is open, of course he’ll take it. Will he enjoy it? Probably not. Get a defender over here. Come get this bucket, please.
Smith hit seven three-point shots in a Game 2 against the Atlanta Hawks in the 2016 postseason. Of those seven shots, five of them were contested with defenders within two to four feet of him. The next day when Smith was made available to the media, he said his teammates were asking him what he was thinking with his shot selection.
"Guys are always looking at me like: 'What are you doing? What are you doing?' This is my shot," Smith said, dead seriously, to the media. But he wasn’t done. "I'd rather take a contested shot than an open shot any day. It's kind of boring when you take open shots."
Does he always make the tough ones? No, of course not. Last season, Smith only shot 0.5 shots per game with a defender within two feet of him and only had an effective field goal percentage of 37.5 percent of those. That’s not good, even for the worst shots in the game.
But honestly? He has a point. Contested shots are bad, but they’re way cooler than open three-pointers when they drop. I could watch this on a loop all day.
Contested shots are fun, even when they don’t go in. What makes Smith special is that every time he shoots one, I kind of expect it to drop. As he said, those are his shots and he’s won a title shooting them.
Keep shooting, Smith.