Depending on who you are, the Friday morning news of Justin Smith transferring may or may not have come as a surprise.
Smith averaged 10 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 assist per game on 49% shooting from the floor. He was also first on the team in minutes per game at just over 30 minutes a contest.
First things first, I want to note that I wish Justin Smith well. He got a degree from the Kelley School of Business, and while some apparently disagree, he will quite literally be a Hoosier forever. He just happens to be going elsewhere for grad school and his last season of eligibility.
With that said – while Smith was first on the team in minutes and second in points and rebounds – I actually think this brings a unique opportunity for Indiana to get better offensively.
Indiana will have a host of options to replace Justin Smith at the 3 – including Al Durham, Armaan Franklin, Anthony Leal, Jordan Geronimo, and Trey Galloway. Last – but not least – and the focus of this post, is Jerome Hunter.
I think Hunter is a natural fit to slide in at the 3 for the Hoosiers (given that Archie decides to go with TJD-Brunk again at the 4 & 5). And I actually think he is a better fit than Justin Smith.
Justin Smith: By the Numbers
In today’s game, many teams have players 1-5 on the floor that can step outside and knock down the 3 consistently. For Indiana – that was not the case. With the Hoosiers starting two bigs that didn’t even attempt a three-pointer in TJD & Brunk (although I think TJD should be working on his outside shot all offseason), the Hoosiers have to have players at the other three positions that can knock down outside shots.
Justin Smith was never that guy. Last Big Ten season, Justin Smith shot 22% from deep.
In the 2018-19 season, he shot 22% on the year from outside the arc. That is a recipe for disaster offensively.
Watch these three clips below of Smith.
This picture pretty much shows how teams guarded Smith all season.
With Smith’s shooting being so poor from deep, teams dared him to shoot it from there. Therefore, they were able to clog up the lane and make driving lanes virtually non-existant & help off of Smith to double in the post. Again, it’s a recipe for disaster for an offense, and it certainly showed with Indiana this season. Remember those long scoring droughts? Not that Smith was fully to blame for those or anything, but he certainly did help matters. Teams were able to pack it in against Indiana & the Hoosiers often paid the price.
Jerome Hunter: By the Numbers
Hunter’s game is not without flaws, by any means, but the ceiling with him at the 3 is much higher, in my opinion. With Smith going into his senior season, it was pretty much what you’ve seen is what you’re going to get with him. Jerome Hunter was in his first season after a brutal injury last year, and by the middle of the season, his game really started to take shape.
In the Big Ten season, Hunter was 35% from deep. His shot chart during the Big Ten season can be found below.
Now 35% isn’t earth-shattering by any means, but it’s far more respectable than 22%. I think Hunter’s quick release & teams focusing on TJD will allow him to blossom as a possible 40% 3-point shooter this-coming season. Even if his percentage remained at 35%, it makes teams change their entire defensive scheme.
With Smith, they were able to pack the paint because they were willing to live with a 22% shooter firing one from deep. A guy at 35% is a different story.
Take a look at the clips below.
You can see mechanically that Jerome Hunter has the tools to be a knockdown shooter, and he doesn’t need a lot of time to get it off.
This image (and the last clip) also illustrates what he brings to the table.
Notice how Jerome’s man is on the opposite side of the floor, but is having to stay glued to him while TJD has the ball? That allows TJD so much more room to operate & helps with floor spacing.
For this reason, it’s why I think Hunter is the ideal candidate to aid the Hoosiers next season, and I think he actually makes Indiana more potent offensively.