Marcus Smart True Shooting Percentage this season: .417 (Oct), .427 (Nov), .472 (Dec), .546 (Jan), .556 (Feb). Hmmm.
By Ken Brock
In late November, as the “Stop shooting, Marcus Smart” petitions rolled out on twitter, one of the contributors at 247 took a close look at Marcus Smart’s early-season numbers. And suggested that Smart’s advanced shooting stats “offer some cause for hope.” That post concluded: “Marus Smart with an average jump shot will be an NBA terror.”
Since then? Well, so far, so good, as they say. Smart’s numbers above and in the table nearby — data from BasketballReference.com and NBA.com — show slow, steady improvement. What’s going on?
— Changing shot selection or role
It’s tempting to think Smart has scaled back and attempted fewer threes than before. The numbers, though, don’t bear that out. His absolute number of three attempts is down slightly, as the table indicates.
In fact, through November, Smart was attempting less than 35 percent of his shots from 3-point range. Since then, it’s been over 50 percent, bringing him — for the season — to 48.6 percent for the year.
One factor may be the return of Marcus Morris from an early-season absence, and the offensive improvement of both Terry Rozier and Daniel Theis. Their presence on the floor helps with spacing, and allows Smart to penetrate — and either kick out to an open shooter or have a better look around the basket.
These numbers lend some support to the idea that:
— Nagging injury played a part
Smart’s ankles seemed to be bothering him early in the season, according to some observers, and may have improved since.
This notion gains added credence to me by the simple eye test. He looks a lot more explosive around the basket. It’s by no means a good thing that he was forced to take several weeks off because of his own stupidity in a Los Angeles hotel. From the looks of it, though, the time off improved his legs.
Indeed, Smart’s shooting percentage from 10 feet or less, as of late November, was a woeful 33.9 percent. Since then, it’s been above 65 percent, for a season total of 51.1 percent. His shot distribution hasn’t changed a lot. Nor has his shooting efficiency from long range. But around the basket, Smart’s been much more the terror that, with that body, if healthy, he should be.
— A needed “Smart catharsis?”
In addition to needing some healing time (if true), the cause of Smart’s injury, and then its aftermath, may have brought about a needed mental reset. Missing that shot against the Lakers clearly frustrated him, and brought forth a hailstorm of criticism (mostly unfair.)
Smart’s self-inflicted injury might have been expected to bring further wratch from Celtics fans. It definitely led the Celtics front office to consider the possibility of trading Smart.
In the event, however, Celtics fans were highly supportive of Smart. The trade rumors passed; Smart either carried out his penance for Brad Stevens and the team, or is in the process of it.
Smart’s return is only four games old, and has come against relatively weak opposition. Now — #OnToHouston — comes the acid test. The Rockets are bound to be thirsty for revenge — particularly James Harden — after Smart’s heroics the last time the two teams met.