Jason Smith has taken a ton of flack from the fanbase for the amount of shot attempts he's hoisted outside of the paint area. In fact, 107 of his 169 field goal attempts have come from 16+ feet. However, this hasn't been the eyesore everyone has made it out to be. Not even close.
With the growth of advanced statistics, many have come to realize there exist an even greater number of factors when discussing differences between good and bad shots. A good deal of it revolves around shot location and it most certainly makes sense. In layman's terms, attempting a shot just a few feet further back, can result in an additional point. Move closer to the rim and usually the probability of success increases.
However, as I've consistently remarked, basketball has complexities that the numbers haven't fully dissected yet. One of these mysteries include the spatial relations teammates must maintain on the basketball court. In a perfect world, all the points scored would come from around the rim, the freethrow line and beyond the arc. Since defenses aren't as static as say all the little men lined up in a foosball game, offenses sometimes need to bait opponents out of their comfort zones.
One such method involves prying the opposition's center away from the rim area. And currently, there is no one doing it better than the Miami. Chris Bosh's primary value is his ability to free up the paint area for Lebron James and Dwyane Wade to wreak havoc:
Last year, Bosh averaged 5.7 shots from the dead zone. This year, Smith is averaging 5.9 and shooting it at a very reasonable 49.5% clip. Now, this isn't to say I've been happy with every attempt -- there have been numerous times, he should have just reversed the ball. Instead, he would settle for a rushed or contested attempt, while a Pelican sat free as a bird on the other wing.
However, it's become much too commonplace to bemoan every Smitty long 2. It's nice that half of them are going in, but even if they didn't, he'd still be contributing a vital role: setting up the prime areas of the court for the rest of the offense. Without it, I trust our offensive rating would drop several notches as the dominoes wouldn't lineup well. Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans would find the lanes more occupied. In turn, Ryan Anderson and the 3-point gang would enjoy less freedom.
Fact of the matter is, Jason Smith is a very average NBA player, one whose best fit is as a reserve. However, due to several circumstances, he has been pushed into a starting role and Monty should be applauded for the integration (well, at least on offense). Smith's best asset, his long perimeter shot, has been utilized to such a degree that the entire team has benefited. Yes, it would be nice if he were more like Ryan Anderson and feel comfortable from beyond the arc. But, that's not in his game and it probably never will be.
So, while we patiently wait for the perfect Ryan Anderson-Anthony Davis-mystery big man rotation, give Smith a break. He's been a significant part of the success of the Pelicans top-rated offense. Don't believe me, find some video of Greg Stiemsma operating on the floor earlier this season. A typical 7 footer just doesn't work with our currently constructed roster. Hey, if the dead zone didn't bother Spoelstra and the 2nd best rated offense last year, the least you can do is try to only begrudge every other Smith 18-footer.