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The surprising offensive efficiency of J.R. Smith

With suitors from Chris Paul and the Los Angeles Clippers to Mike D’Antoni and the New York Knicks, swingman J.R. Smith is a pretty hot commodity right now.

Update: J.R. Smith to the Knicks

As his lockout-infused season comes to an abrupt end in China Smith now has the unique opportunity of wisely selecting his team of choice for the remainder of the 2011-12 NBA season.

Although you are surely already aware of the obvious offensive talent Smith brings to the above-mentioned squads, what you may be unaware of is the surprising efficiency with which he creates that offense.

J.R. Smith by the Numbers

Last season Smith, suiting up in 79 games for the Denver Nuggets, averaged 12.3 points and 1.6 threes in 24.9 minutes of action per contest.   However, shooting just 43.5% from the field the confident off-guard was generally looked at around the Association as a gunner who takes more ill-advised shot attempts than smart offensive opportunities when inserted into the lineup.

While on paper that argument seems to hold valid weight, going back and watching game footage we find that much of Smith’s negative reputation offensively could be chalked up to an unfair and unproven growing league-wide sentiment.

Smith, last season, actually finished as one of the most efficient two-guards in the game.  We’re talking about a guy, counter all the talk of ill-advised attempts, that averaged just 9.9 shots per game.  And while his 43.5% overall shooting from the field leaves much to be desired; his 39.0% three-point shooting clip does quite the opposite.

For those who are not completely sold on the positive exploits of one J.R. Smith we provide you substantial statistical evidence via Synergy Sports Technology to make our case.

Just under 22% of Smith’s offense came via the spot-up offensive play type a season ago.  Out of 214 logged spot-up possessions Smith shot 46.3% from the field while tallying 1.276 ppp.  Those numbers put the athletic 6-6 jump shooter in the 98th percentile of NBA players in Synergy’s database during the 2010-11 NBA season.

To give you an idea of just how impressive those statistics are; his 1.276 ppp in spot-up situations ranked him 10th overall in the Association last season placing him above Steph Curry (1.25), Ray Allen (1.203) and Steve Nash (1.192).

Not a bad group of shooters to be mentioned with there I am sure you would agree.

The difference in Smith resides in, not only his ability to knock down open spot-up shots, but in his ability to attack off the dribble and finish at the rim if that shot is unavailable.

Smith also turned out to be one of the more efficient weapons in off-screen play types in 2011.

Knocking down 47.5% of his takes via the screen while compiling a 1.262 ppp in those same-type offensive sets, Smith again proved to be a wildly productive factor offensively.

Smith fills a need offensively for most Prospective Teams

The numbers simply don’t lie.   Smith is erratic and bound to take a few bad shots yes, but overall his offensive efficiency makes him worthy of the attention he is receiving lately by more than a few teams in dire need of offense in the backcourt.

Smith clearly spaces the floor with his spot up game, nailing 124 three-pointers last year, and with his above-average athletic ability can finish at the rim if chased off the three-point line.

We’re not sure who will ultimately win the J.R. Smith sweepstakes, however if he gets on a team with solid veteran leadership and continues to shoot the way he did a year ago; he instantly helps a team offensively.

Defensively, well that is another question entirely.  But since J.R. is accustomed to playing a complimentary role in the NBA, maybe even that generalization is a little overrated.

Besides he may be an upgrade to Mo Williams in L.A. and in New York his instant offense coupled with Shumpert off the bench could be quite the dynamic moving forward.

With all that being said J.R. Smith is surely a problem worth having more than not.

To give you an idea of Smith’s financial implications to prospective NBA clubs this season read what ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported late Tuesday morning.

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