[Caleb462's first post of many here on @tH... I think he nailed it -R]
When the trade with Philadelphia went down this past September, there weren't too many folks excited about the prospect of Jason Smith as a Hornet. Oh sure, you can always find someone with a rooting interest in any NBA player. This usually happens because they attended the same university as the player or are from the same geographical area. As an aside, there are also the times that someone has a few really good games with a player in a video game and this skews their view of the player's actual capabilities. A couple of years ago I was convinced that Charlie Bell was a productive NBA player because he was killing it in my NBA 2K8 season. As it turns out, that was false.
But let's get back to the topic at hand. Now I'm not saying anyone was particularly upset about the Philadelphia trade, but at the time it seemed like an exchange of spare parts that would barely make a ripple in the overall makeup of the Hornets. The general reaction from fans and media alike was "move along, nothing to see here." We are now two months removed from the trade and Smith has become a fan favorite who has made a small but significant impact on a number of wins for the Hornets.There was also apparently a guy named Willie Green involved in the trade, but I've never heard of him. Regardless, today marks exactly two months since Jason Smith became a Hornet so in order to celebrate that two month anniversary let's take a closer look at what Smith has done.
His basic per game stats (through 12 games) of 6.9 PPG, 4.1 RPG, and 0.8 APG on 45.3% from the field are nothing special. If you extrapolate those numbers to 36 minutes, you get averages of 13.2 PTS, 7.8 RBS and 1.6 ASTS. That looks a little more substantial, but it's not going to wow anyone. Nonetheless, if you start examining Jason's numbers in the context of his career as a whole, and look beyond the basic per game and per minute numbers, you'll see that Jason is having himself a bit of a breakout season. He is posting career bests in Offensive Rating (104), Defensive Rating (100), PER (12.7), Offensive Rebound Percentage (9.8%), Total Rebound Percentage (12.5%), Turnover Percentage (10.8%), and True Shooting Percentage (.503). He also has the ball in his hands more, posting a career high usage rate of 19.1%. Basically the only thing he is doing LESS of is blocking shots. Otherwise, Jason is the most productive player he's ever been. This confirms what our eyes have been telling us.
With that said, it should be noted that some of these increases are slight, and though improvement is great you have to consider what level the jumping off point is at. We are basically seeing Smith go from a well below average player to a slightly below average or perhaps simply average player. That's okay though. I tend to believe that statistics, while always important, are less important for players who have minor but clearly defined roles and who excel in those specific roles. That is Jason Smith to a tee. He will play the pick and pop game and hit the midrange jumper, and when he's not doing that he'll hustle his head off to do whatever else he can to help the team. That's his role. His limitations will prevent him from filling up the stat sheet, but nonetheless he's a player that, as a fan, you really like seeing on the floor during his regular 10-20 minutes a game.
Of course, one could ask.... couldn't the same be said for Darius Songaila? Where was the love for Songaila last year? Aren't they basically the same player? Not quite. Their roles are nearly identical, but while Songaila had his good nights and always seemed to do what he could, he was never the mad hustler that Jason Smith is. Smith also has one other clear advantage over Darius Songaila, and that is rebounding. Smith is a mediocre rebounder for a power forward, but Songaila is just plain awful in that department. It is also important to consider expectations. What Songaila brought to the Hornets is exactly what most Hornets fans expected. Contrast this with Jason Smith, of whom very little was expected, and you can see where the excitement about Smith has come from. Due to low expectations, Smith was given the opportunity to pleasantly surprise us. Another important difference is that Jason Smith is young and though his role is clearly defined, in a sense he is still figuring out who he is as an NBA player. There's the potential he could continue to get better. Songaila was already an established player when he joined the Hornets and it was never likely that he would get any better (or worse) in the immediate future. So partially its a matter of perception, but its partially production as well. Ultimately I do believe that Jason Smith brings a bit more to this team than Songaila did and I am quite happy that he is now a Hornet. Dell Demps is a smart guy.
In closing, I'd like to say... let's give this man a nickname. I've heard "J-Smooth", which is isn't bad, but it's already associated with Josh Smith. I came up with "The Long J," due to Smith's penchant for mid-range and long two-pointers, but I have to admit it's pretty lame. Gil McGregor seems to think that simply calling him "Jason Smith" and emphasizing the "J" suffices for a nickname. I do not agree. So let's try to come up with something. He's earned it.
How about "Jumpersmith"? Like a locksmith, only his trade is jumpers, not locks. No?