The Legend of Ish Smith's Three Point Shooting

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

I guess it's technically a report card if you only got graded in your worst class.

As frequent readers of Bright Side of the Sun have come to know, the three point shooting adventures of Ish Smith were a bit of an obsession of mine in the late stages of the Suns season.

Those of you who have been around this site long enough may also be aware that both Suns history and awful shooting performances from members of the Phoenix Suns are two of my more significant basketball interests. Those two were first married together back in December of 2010 following the incredible 12 game reign of Sir Earl (of) Barron. I'd strongly suggest taking a quick flip through that slice of heaven, but if you have a life I can effectively boil it down to three points for you:

  • Earl Barron had the lowest field goal percentage of any Phoenix Suns player ever that attempted more than 27 shots in a season.
  • Earl Barron is one of only 3 Phoenix Suns players ever who took more than 50 shots in a season and shot less than 30% from the field.
  • Barron is one of 6 NBA players since 1960 to attempt 50 or more shots in a season and shoot 23.5% or lower.

Three and a half years later those bullets haven't changed.

So with those points in mind, when assignments for Suns player report cards were being doled out I was the natural fit for Ish. Now a lot of people are going to go into a deep analysis of the key contributions for the player they are covering.

This will not be that.

Anyway - I watched every single Ish Smith three pointer this season (the NBA Stats website is truly incredible) so you didn't have to. I've even got a full log of his attempts, including the game situation, play development, and exactly how he missed it (in what critics are calling the worst word document ever produced).

So here's a look at Ish Smith's three point shooting in the 2013-14 season in a nutshell:

  • 1 made three pointer in 23 attempts for a 3P% of 4.3.
  • He made his 4th attempt against Denver on November 8th and proceeded to miss his next and final 19 tries.
  • The 23 attempts were spread over 16 different games.
  • The most attempts he had in a game was 4 against the Kings on November 19th. He missed all 4 in a 3 point Suns loss. If I hadn't been out of the country and missed that game I might have cried myself to sleep that night.
  • The Suns were 11-5 in the 16 games Ish attempted threes and undefeated when he made one.
  • 9 of his 23 attempts were either late in the shot clock (less than 5 seconds) or an end of quarter situation.
  • 3 of the attempts were late the 4th quarter during close games -
    • Attempt #1 v. Utah (11/1/13) - Suns down 76-73 and 5 minutes left in the 4th Markieff Morris kicked out to Ish for a miss from the right side.
    • Attempt #4 @ Sacramento (11/19/13) - Suns up 2 and just 2:21 remaining, Goran Dragic drove to the basket and kicked to Ish in the corner for a miss.
    • Attempt #14 @ Chicago (1/7/14) - Suns down 9 and less than 6 minutes remaining, Gerald Green drove and passed to Ish who missed a three from the left side.

Place In Suns History

Now you're probably all like - "That seems really bad, writer guy with an obvious pseudonym, but give me some context." Well like I did for Earl Barron, let's compare to the history of the Suns franchise:

  • There have now been 315 different players who have suited up for the Suns since the franchise came into existence in 1968-69.
  • Those 315 players have participated in a total of 700 individual seasons. Like in the Barron article an "individual season" for my purposes is just the number of seasons a guy played on the Suns - even if it was just for part of a season. So a guy like Marcus Morris counts for 2 seasons since he was on the roster for part of 2012-13 and all of this year while Ish would count for 1 season.
  • 143 of those individual seasons occurred before the introduction of the three point line in the 1979-80 season so our individual season count has dropped to 557.

Of those 557 individual seasons - 232 times a Suns player has attempted 20 or more three pointers in a season. This includes Suns legends like Michael Beasley, Zarko Cabarkapa, Ronnie Price, Joe Crispin, Jalen Rose, the horrible rookie version of Goran Dragic, Josh Childress, and even Ed Nealy.

Which of those 232 players shot less than 10% from three on their 20+ attempts?

    Kevin Johnson (1988-89) - 2/22, 9.1%
    Johnny High (1980-81) - 2/24, 8.3%
    Ish Smith (2013-14) - 1/23, 4.3%

      Just those three.

      Meaning Ish Smith is the only Phoenix Suns player to ever shoot less than 8% from three point range on a minimum of 20 attempts. He's also the only Suns player to shoot less than 6.3% on a minimum of 10 attempts (Josh Childress in 2010-11 had previously set the bar when he went 1/16).

      Once you drop below 10 you find some comfort in that Cedric Ceballos missed each of his 9 attempts in the 1993-94 campaign.

      Basically Ish has the worst three point shooting Phoenix Suns season ever from someone who thought it was a good idea to shoot threes other than by accident or because it was required.

      Comparing to the Rest of the NBA:

      So how about league wide? That's certainly sure to give Ish some company, right?

      Well it does!

      In the 35 years since the NBA adopted the three point stripe, 20 different players have shot more than 20 three pointers in a season and shot less than 5%. That list includes Hall of Famers Magic Johnson, Calvin Murphy, and Dennis Johnson - along with slam dunk champion Spud Webb and noted ironman/Casanova AC Green.

      But when you lower the bar a little further you see just how special Ish's three point shooting was this season. Of any player to attempt 23 or more three pointers in a season, a mere 9 brave souls have shot less than 4.4%. They are:

        Randy Smith (1980-81 Cleveland Cavaliers) - 1/28, 3.6%
        Calvin Murphy (1979-80 Houston Rockets) - 1/25, 4.0%
        Hedo Turkoglu (2012-13 Orlando Magic) - 1/24, 4.2%
        Sedale Threatt (1985-86 Philadelphia 76ers) - 1/24, 4.2%
        Dennis Johnson (1989-90 Boston Celtics) - 1/24, 4.2%
        Ish Smith (2013-14 Phoenix Suns) - 1/23, 4.3%
        Terrell Brandon (1991-92 Cleveland Cavaliers) - 1/23, 4.3%
        Calbert Cheaney (1993-94 Washington Bullets) - 1/23, 4.3%
        Jerome Kersey (1986-87 Portland Trail Blazers) 1/23, 4.3%

          To drastically oversimplifiy, Ish had one of the worst 3 point shooting seasons by any NBA guard in the last 20 plus seasons of NBA basketball. For that he will now take his place atop the Suns terrible shooting Mount Rushmore with Earl Barron.

          Bonus fun fact - if you go to Basketball Reference right now and run a filter for the above stats they will show that Smith attempted 24 three pointers on the season. If you're an avid reader of the Bright Side comments section (and why wouldn't you be) you'll note my quixotic campaign to get the third shot here changed from an incorrectly listed three pointer (as it currently is here) to the appropriate 5 foot runner that it was.

          See, I'm not totally mean, nobody probably ever would have noticed that shot being listed as a three pointer if some blogging weirdo hadn't pointed it out (h/t to Suns Digital Manager Greg Esposito who emailed the NBA to get it fixed. Here's a Twitter recap).

          *As a side note, Archie Goodwin threw his hat in the ring for Mount TerribleShooter as he's one of just 22 players in NBA history to attempt 36 three pointers in a season and hit less than 14%. Here are all his rowdy friends - which include Michael Jordan. So pretty much Archie = MJ.

          Fully realizing that was about 1,000 words about 1 bad aspect of Ish Smith, I figure I should throw in a few hundred words on good things. So here are some nice things about Ish:

          • He's super fast. In fact, Kevin Durant suggested he was one of the two fastest players in the NBA.


            • He played in 70 games and managed to contribute 14.4 minutes per game - which was particularly important while Eric Bledsoe was out with his pair of injuries.
            • Outside of three point shooting, he averaged career highs in pretty much every relevant category.
            • He's actually a 21.7% three point shooter for his career so I guess he's not this bad.
            • He's clearly coachable since he attempted just 6 threes in the last 38 games after shooting 17 in the first 44.
            • Considering that there were almost no expectations for a guy who was seen as a throw-in to a dumping of Caron Butler - Ish performed quite well. In Dave's 900 plus word rundown of the Butler trade from last August, the only words committed to Smith were these:

            Ish Smith is a journeyman who won't crack a PG rotation already overloaded with Dragic, Bledsoe, Marshall and even Diante Garrett.

            The Suns also are unlikely to blink an eye if they need to release any or all of Malcolm Lee (884K), Kravtsov (1.5 mil) or Ish Smith (900K) to get down to 15 players by the regular season.

              • Seems like a swell guy and good locker room dude - to the extent where I felt sort of bad for a minute about putting this together. I say sort of because he made nearly a million dollars playing basketball last year and stands to make several million more over the next 5-10 years.

              What's next:

              • Ish has a non-guaranteed contract for 2014-15 at a value of $992,435. Some of the internet suggests it becomes fully guaranteed if he's not waived on or before July 15th but I'll just wait for Lon Babby to email Dave and tell him that I'm wrong. Otherwise, take it as fact.
              • I suppose it depends on about a billion other factors whether he returns to Phoenix or not (draft, trades, all the other rosterbaition techniques) but I'm sure the comments below will have him anywhere from a Sun for life to being shipped off to CSKA Moscow in an elaborate move that gets the Suns Kevin Love and Trajan Langdon. July 15th could be a completely different roster from now.
              Grade - Crocodile

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