If you’re one of the many folks still ripping Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley‘s perimeter shooting, wait until you get a load of Celtics rookie Marcus Smart.
Following a trend that’s been in decline since his days at appropriately named Marcus High in Flower Mound, Texas, Smart is attempting a higher rate of his shots from distance, even as his 3-point percentage progressively worsens.
Let’s take a look at Smart’s shooting percentages from inside the 3-point line — where he’s an exceptional finisher at the rim and gets to the free throw line with tremendous effectiveness — and beyond it since his junior year of high school.
2010-11 (high school junior): 176-292 2P (.603), 29-84 3P (.345)
2011-12 (high school senior): 143-216 2P (.577), 41-110 3P (.372)
2012-13 (Oklahoma State freshman): 113-243 2P (.465), 38-131 3P (.290)
2013-14 (Oklahoma State sophomore): 114-222 2P (.514), 49-164 3P (.299)
2014-15 (summer league/preseason): 14-41 2P (.342), 13-56 3P (.232)
At the prep level, Smart could get to the rim with ease, but his 6-foot-4, 226-pound frame becomes less of an advantage as the competition level rises. Likewise, scouting plays an increased role at each stage, and defenses are designed to encourage Smart’s shooting while discouraging his penetration.
As a result, the Celtics rookie’s long-distance attempts have increased from 27.6 percent of his total shots in high school to 38.8 percent in college and now 57.7 percent in nine games of summer league and preseason action. Granted, that’s a limited sample size in the NBA — where the 3-point distance is greater and he may be attempting more exhibition 3′s to adjust — but Smart’s excessive poor 3-point shooting remains a concern.
As usual, DraftExpress did a nice job of breaking down Smart’s catch-and-shoot struggles at Oklahoma State, where he was just as bad — if not worse — from mid-range as he was from 3, per shotanalytics.com.
Interestingly, Smart’s shooting stroke hasn’t changed all that much since high school.
His lengthy stroke still started at the knees and finished with his feet off balance in summer league.
Same goes for the preseason.
Our man Trags captured video of Smart working on squaring his feet better in practice, but the results through four preseason games haven’t been kind, illustrating a similar trend in both perimeter shooting volume and success.
Game 1 (Celtics 98, 76ers 78): 0-2 in the paint, 0-1 mid-range, 0-5 3P
Game 2 (Celtics 106, Knicks 86): 0-1 in the paint, 2-3 mid-range, 2-4 3P
Game 3 (Raptors 116, Celtics 109): 1-1 in the paint, 0-0 mid-range, 1-7 3P
Game 4 (Knicks 96, Celtics 80): 0-0 in the paint, 0-0 mid-range, 1-5 3P
Outside of a hot-shooting performance in his first game against the Knicks, Smart is 0-for-1 from mid-range and 2-for-17 from 3. Including that game, he’s attempted just four shots in the paint and made only one. If that’s not concerning, then when does it become a problem? Smart made his living at the rim in high school and college, remarkably shooting 67 percent in the restricted area and getting to the line eight times per game as an Oklahoma State sophomore. Barring a marked improvement in his shooting percentages, it won’t be pretty as NBA defenses sag off Smart enough to prevent penetration, forcing him to create offense entirely from the perimeter.
It’s not unprecedented for a poor-shooting guard to improve over the course of his career. Jason Kidd is probably the most oft cited example, shooting 27.2 percent from 3 as a rookie and submitting two 40 percent 3-point shooting seasons toward the tail end of his career. But Rondo and Bradley offer two more recent case tests closer to home.
Both Rondo and Bradley have significantly improved their mid-range jump shots, and the latter emerged as a prolific 40 percent 3-point shooter this past season. Maybe not this year, but there’s hope for Marcus Smart’s shooting yet.