Flipping the script

Atlanta's Josh Smith has hit 31 three-pointers this season after going 0-for-7 in the previous one. Pouya Dianat for ESPN The Magazine

This story appears in the Feb. 7, 2011 issue of ESPN The Magazine.

The term "extreme makeovers" is supposed to be reserved for decrepit houses and people suffering from midlife crises. Rarely does it apply to seasoned NBA vets like Josh Smith, Al Jefferson and Richard Jefferson. Smith and Al Jefferson are both in their seventh seasons; Richard Jefferson is in his 10th. After that many years, conventional NBA wisdom says there are no surprises about what players can do or how well they do it. Yet all three are posting double-digit percentage increases in a key facet of their games.

Nowhere is the surge more surprising than in Atlanta. Smith, the same J-Smoove who abandoned the three ball last season when he attempted -- and missed -- just seven shots, is now among the best three-point shooting power forwards in the Eastern Conference. Making 36.9 percent of his treys, Smith is shooting better than such feared marksmen as Danilo Gallinari and Rashard Lewis. Meanwhile, Al Jefferson was traded from lowly Minnesota to Utah last summer, and the career 70 percent free throw shooter is suddenly up 10 percent.