As J.J.’s offensive struggles have continued he’s started to force things. He’s still a willing passer but he’s also tended to fall back into his habit of holding the ball, setting up his man and going one-on-one. And it just doesn’t seem like he’s been as good as that as usual, a development that’s in stark contrast to how his teammates have taken to the L.D.’s more balanced offensive approach.
But beyond those issues, my perception is that J.J. simply has missed a lot of good, open shots, particularly spot-up 3-pointers. Those are the kind of shots that tend to have little to do with forcing things. By definition, they don’t require J.J. to create his own shot. A teammate already has already made the play to create space; all J.J. has to do is catch the ball in rhythm, square up and make an open shot.
I think J.J. just hasn’t been able to do it consistently this season, but that’s just my perception. So I turned to the Synergy machine, which smashes false perceptions with the cold facts of shot-type statistics and video evidence*. And the numbers confirmed what I’ve perceived: Joe has attempted 54 spot-up jump shots and made just 11 (20.4 percent), including 9 of 46 on 3-pointers (19.6 percent).
J.J.’s shooting percentage on spot-ups is worse than his shooting percentage on every other type of halfcourt play: isolation (24 of 62, 38.7 percent), pick-and-rolls (14 of 44, 31.8 percent), post-ups (11 of 23, 47.8 percent), off screens (9 of 20, 45 percent), handoffs (7 of 15, 46.7 percent), and cuts (18 of 23, 78.3 percent).
It seems there is some merit to the idea that J.J. is slumping. (He’s questionable to play against the Grizzlies due to a sore elbow that apparently has nothing to do with his shooting slump but developed overnight Monday.)
“He is getting some good looks,” L.D. said. “It’s not a concern. I know his hand is bothering him a little bit. But I am confident he will get on target. The fact [is] that he hasn’t shot it with consistency and we’ve been able to still win some games without him shooting the ball very well. When he does get back on track it will make us that more effective. I am not concerned with that. It’s just a matter of him getting out of that little slump.”
As a team, the Hawks have more shot attempts on spot-ups than any other play and have made 133 of 351 (38 percent). J.J. has been the worst spot-up shooter among the perimeter rotation players; Bibby has been the best (25 of 52, 48 percent, which Synergy says ranks No. 7 in the league ). Jamal has made 17 of 45 (37.8 percent) and Marvin 11 of 30 (36.7 percent). Anyone who has watched Al shouldn’t be surprised that he’s made 16 of 30 (53.3 percent) and even Smoove is 26 of 69 (37.7 percent).
So J.J. has been the worst spot-up shooter on what is the league’s No. 15 ranked team for that type of shot, according to Synergy. There’s not much L.D. or anyone else can do to help J.J. if he can’t make simple, open, shots. Putting the ball in J.J.’s hand risks bogging down what has shown signs of becoming a very potent offensive attack as the team’s turnovers decrease (H/T Hoopinion).
But L.D. keeps doing what he can to get his All-Star guard going.
“I try to put him in situations, some of the usual stuff, the pick-and-pops,” Drew said. “Against the teams that do double team, I try to keep him in the middle of the floor where it’s harder to double team him. He’s missing shots that he normally knocks down. It’s just a matter of time until he finds that groove, that stroke again.”
(*My plan had been to review all of J.J.’s spot-up jumpers to see if nearly all of them have been quality shots, as I suspect. Alas, though I tried all day I couldn’t get Synergy’s video function to work so I’ll have to do that some other time.)