One of the more unnoticed characters, Jason Smith was brought to New Orleans for depth in the front-court. Smith has suffered a number of set-backs in his NBA career, namely injuries. This past season he played 77 games, starting in six.
Jason’s option to be picked up by the Hornets was not activated, meaning that he is now an unrestricted free-agent. The option was for 3.1 million dollars and it’s very likely that this is not his market value, especially under a new collective bargainning agreement.
Smith is reportedly open to resigning with the Hornets being spotted recently by our very own Jake Madison at a local bar in New Orleans.
So let’s break down what was, what is and what will be for the sneaky athletic power-forward and center.
Jason Smith came in with very low expectations. Everyone knew that he was a first round draft pick that had an excellent jumpshot. Outside of that he struggles to translate well to the NBA game. This is quite a shame because he’s quietly athletic and quick, something many people don’t know. In a way he has the body, shape and movements that Dirk Nowitzki has, but can’t really translate it into any tangible post moves or offensive game overall.
Smith’s best game was quite easily against the Washington Wizards when he received the opportunity to start in Emeka Okafor’s absence. He started off well knocking down his first few shots and tried to attack the rim in the best manner that he could. For most of us it was a coming out party for him. He scored 20 points on 11 shots, grabbed 5 rebounds, 3 offensive and had a few steals. We never expected this and as fans we were left wondering why he couldn’t contribute off the bench more consistently.
The great part about his game was the variety in which he got his points. Not only was he hitting his jumpshot, but he drew fouls as he attacked the basket, he grabbed offensive rebounds and actually worked out of the isolation a few times to put up numbers. Defensively he wasn’t as exploited as much as Monty Williams thought, “Defensively he didn’t get exploited as bad as most people would have expected. … He did a good job tonight. Obviously when you make shots like that it makes it look a lot better.”
Again, this was just against the Wizards, but the way in which he played, the controlled manner of production and the confidence in his game that night made it all the more surprising.
As for the rest of the season Smith was quite up and down in terms of overall production. We always knew he had that long range jump shot, but so did other teams, eventually. What’s strange is that he’s actually a decent three-point shooter, hitting 35 percent in his second season.
The reliability of his jumpshot was reflected against the inconsistency of his performances on defense. Often Smith would either get outmuscled, out-maneuvered or just out-classed. Sometimes it wasn’t his own doing, but other times it was clear that he just doesn’t possess the craftiness to defend in the NBA.
If we take a glance at his statistics to gain an accurate measurement of his abilities we know three basic elements of his game:
1. Not an efficient scorer (takes long-range jumpshots, the most inefficient in the game: eFG% is .443)
2. He’s a below average rebounder (follow Rohan’s 10-20-15 rebounding rule, Smith pulls in at 10-17-13)
3. Not entirely bad on defense (gets steals and his defensive rating of 105 is just below the league average)
Smith is quite a below-average NBA player, and over his career he’s posted pretty much the same statistics in every category going neither up nor down. Because of this it’s difficult to expect him to grow and develop, but sometimes a mark of consistency and stability allows a player to flourish in the long term.
As mentioned prior, Smith is currently an unrestricted free-agent, but would like to return. A figure of around one million dollars seems appropriate given the need to develop more.
I guess there’s still some promise I see in Jason. I know it’s almost a mortal sin to compare him to Dirk Nowitzki, but that’s how I see his makeup. He’s offensively orientated, but doesn’t have the repitiore of moves that the German big-man does.
This lockout will be crucial for Smith development. If he’s willing to devote himself to operating out of the low-post, or rather, trying to develop some kind of face-up game, then perhaps he could be a big part of this organisations development into the future.
What Will Be
Ultimately I feel like New Orleans will bring back Smith and operate as a prospect that could eventually become a really threat off the bench. That’s the hope, whether that’s the reality is another question entirely, but I like to think that the small glimpses shown throughout the season of his ability to operate out of a face up game, hit a jumpshot and hit his foul shots will translate to a more refined game.
My aspirations for Smith might all be cannon-fodder and false by his career end, but you can’t deny his promise and skill-set. He’s a seven-footer who can move about the court with ease, can hit the jumpshot and can drive to the basket if he knows how to do it. If the coaching staff could pay attention to this and work this part of his game, he could some day be a valuable asset. Otherwise if they focus more on his weaknesses his offensive potential could go to waste.
It’s highly likely that in five years time we’ll forget J-Smoove, but I’ll never forget the potential that we should all see in him.
Season Grade: (rated in Awesome to the Max’s)
Two and a half out of Five.