Houston Rockets: What the stats, tracking data, and film say about Jabari Smith Jr.’s slow start 

N.B. Lindberg
Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets
Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets / Alex Bierens de Haan/GettyImages
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Jabari Smith Jr.’s tracking data

There are two ways to look at Jabari Smith Jr.’s tracking data based on his prospect pedigree. The first way is to believe that scouts were dead wrong about his shooting potential and that his college data was a mirage. The second way is to see a player struggling at the skills he was supposed to be elite at, and a massive turnaround is on the horizon. 

50% of Smith’s field goal attempts are catch-and-shoot attempts, of which nearly all are 3-pointers. His 29.2% on his catch-and-shoot threes is unfathomably low, and even if he is a bad shooter, this figure should still tick up. 

Smith shows a normal progression of shooting more efficiently the more open he is, but once again his shooting percentages defy belief for a player hailed as a knockdown shooter. On 3-pointers, he is shooting 36% on wide open attempts, 27.3% on open, 20% on tightly contested, and he has yet to attempt a very tightly contested three this season. The league average field goal percentage on wide open 3-pointers is roughly 37.9% and 34.6% on open threes. 

The vast majority of Smith’s attempts (3.4) come in the open category, with another 1.9 classified as wide open. Just hitting the league average on those attempts, even if he missed every single contested three, would see his 3-point shooting improve to 33.2% from 29.7%. 

The Rockets’ offensive structure and guard play has become the scapegoat for Smith’s struggles. While there’s a modicum of truth in it, it’s, at best, a small factor. He’s attempting 20.3% of his threes from the corners but only converting 33.3%, and he is getting 5.3 open or wide open threes a game. 

Even his struggles inside the arc can’t really be blamed on the guards. He’s shooting well below league average from every area inside the arc, and teams don’t exactly design offenses to get guys long-twos anymore. Smith’s shooting woes are on him, which is why the video analysis is so key.