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
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Breaking down Jabari Smith Jr. film 

The first thing we need to address is that Jabari Smith Jr. has already augmented his jump shot. The form looks the same, but from Summer League to today, there is a noticeable and promising development. Let’s see if you can spot the difference in his jump shot. 

Did you spot the difference? Smith is getting more arc on his jumper, which is fantastic for his long term shooting prospects. Why is it so important? Because math, that’s why. 

A basketball hoop can fit two basketballs through it at once. This gives shooters a margin for error, but a ball’s angle of approach can expand or contract those margins. If you stand a foot from the rim and try to shoot the ball in a straight line, you’ll likely miss every shot, but if you were to stand on a ladder in the same spot and drop the ball into the hoop, you’d almost never miss. 

More arc means a more favorable angle of approach, which increases your margin for error and helps to bolster your shooting percentages. The fact that Smith is already making this adjustment is awesome, but it also means he has to relearn aspects of his shot. Sometimes you have to take a step backward to take two steps forward.

The other truth is that Smith’s poor run of shooting over the past six games has a lot of bad luck and "almost there's." I went back and watched all 32 of Smith’s 3-pointers over that period and charted whether the shot was on target, meaning the shot was online but was either over or undershot, or off target. 

One shot was blocked, and seven were made, which leaves 24 missed shots. Of those 24, I charted 14 as on target. When combined with his makes, 67.7% of Smith’s 3-pointers were on target, but he only hit 21.9% of them. Close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, but Smith was very close to converting his threes at a completely reasonable clip.