Resume: 18.8 points (career best), 9.6 rebounds (career best), 3.9 assists, 1.4 steals, 1.7 blocks (9th in league), 35.3 minutes, 46% FG, and 63% FT… Team record in games played: 40-26… Playoffs: 16.8 points (career best), 13.6 (career best), 4.8 assists (career best), 39% FG, 76% FT, 2-3 record (0-1 without)
Some player’s careers are just interesting. It doesn’t matter whether you like them or not, you just can’t help but be intrigued by how exactly everything has went down. Of course I’m going to be fascinated by a guy whose nickname is J-Smoove, was on the same high school team as Rajon Rondo and once a part of an AAU “Big 3” along with Dwight Howard and Randolph Morris. In the extremely odd case that you were wondering where Randolph Morris is right now, he’s playing in China for the Beijing Ducks. You’re welcome for saving you the trip to Wikipedia. Anyhow, Josh Smith is 28th on this list, and just like most of the players I’ve ranked so far, and many more to come, I had a little bit of trouble with this one.
Smith has the unfortunate luck of playing for one of the most unenthusiastic home crowds in the NBA. The home crowd at Philips Arena couldn’t care less that Smith is the most exciting Hawk since Dominique Wilkins and Spud Webb were lighting up The Omni in the mid/late-eighties. While this doesn’t seem like a significant point to make when you are ranking the Top 50 players in the NBA, it is when you are talking about Josh Smith. Remember, Smith isn’t exactly locked into the notion of being a Hawk forever. He’s listed his desired trade destinations in the past, and did everything short of trying to seduce the Celtics fans after the Hawks got beat by Boston in the first round of the playoffs last year.
Smith is a bit of a smelly homeless-man’s LeBron James, in that athletically he is superior to a good portion of guys in the league. Ideally, Smith should play for a home crowd that would rise go bananas every time he rose up to catch an alley-oop on a fast break, or whenever he flies over from the weak side to swat a shot into the third row. Instead he’s stuck playing about 60 road games a year since a good portion of his home games end up seeming like road games since the Hawks fans in attendance more often than not are in a lackadaisical state. He makes at least three plays a game that should get everyone in Atlanta out of their seats and screaming their heads off. I know that watching from my couch at least three times every Hawks game I shake my head and say something like “Holy crap that was ridiculous!” because Smith did something that normal human beings just don’t do. At the same time, I, and every single Hawk fan as well, will shake our heads at least three times a game and say “Holy crap, what was Josh Smith thinking?”
Right there lies the problem with Josh Smith. The fact that he still hasn’t figured out that the audible gasps that the crowd lets out every time he gets ready to take a jump shot should indicate that he isn’t a jump shooter is a problem. The fact that he seems to save his boneheaded plays for the worst possible time in the game is a problem. Unbiased NBA fans have to be thinking, “Damn, why can’t Josh Smith just put it all together?” That question is warranted, especially when you look at how great he played in the season long absence of Al Horford. It wasn’t Joe Johnson stepping up for Atlanta, even though he is making the money of someone who should be “the man.” It was Smith who put up career best scoring and rebounding numbers, shouldering the burden for Atlanta down low. Just so you know, outside of Horford and Smith, the Hawks interior players are Zaza Pachulia, Ivan Johnson, Erick Dampier (who by the way has the worst offensive repertoire in the NBA. I’ve seen him warm up in Miami, and he can’t make a shot outside of 8 feet. It’s uncanny), Vladmir Radmanovic, and Jason Collins. J-Smoove deserves at least one of those 1st place ribbons from the dollar store for dealing with that group of duds. I give an incredible amount of credit to Josh Smith for keeping the Hawks in the playoff picture last year. That was the first time I’ve seen serious progression in the maturation of Josh Smith. The next step in that progression is to eliminate all of those “Holy crap, what was Josh Smith thinking?” moments. It’s a big step, but hopefully for Smith, and true NBA fans, he can make it.