Among the highlights of the Orlando Magic's free open practice on Monday evening was the point-guard play of Ish Smith, who drained three crucial three-pointers for his team in the scrimmage. Smith has never been much of a scorer, but worked on his outside shot all summer to force defenses to account for him, writes John Denton of OrlandoMagic.com:
"I absolutely believe that was one piece of the puzzle (that was missing)," Smith said of his jump shot. "People could always say that his speed and ball handling were pretty good, but what was holding me back from being a really good player was that jumper. So I’ve tried to take it upon myself to continue to work and I just thank God that it’s fallen into place for me."
People did indeed levy that criticism against Smith. "He can't shoot," ESPN analyst John Hollinger wrote in September. "Smith shot only 38.3 percent from the floor, and finished the season with an abysmal 42.2 TS%. Granted, it was a small sample, but he only made one 3-pointer and earned only eight free throw attempts. Given those parameters, he'd need to shoot 50 percent from the floor to warrant much of a role."
The situation might be different now that Smith has overhauled his shooting stroke after hours of work with Magic assistant coaches Brett Gunning and Laron Profit. And it doesn't appear as though he'll be bashful about letting it fly in game situations.
"I just feel a whole lot more comfortable with it," Smith said of his new jumper, which he plans to use when opposing defenses wall him out of the paint.
According to Basketball-Reference's Play Index Plus tool, Smith is a career 35.3 percent jump-shooter. Given his exceptionally low volume of three-point attempts, that figure is unacceptable for a perimeter player, especially for one who struggles to finish at the rim--just 42.1 percent for his career, according to HoopData--as well.
Denton says that Magic coach Jacque Vaughn hasn't fully committed to either Smith or E'Twaun Moore as the team's backup point guard. Given that Moore took part in all of training camp while Smith recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, he would appear to have the upper hand, at least for now.