NBA Top 50: Josh Smith (No. 32)
FanHouse's Tom Ziller argues his ranking of the top 50 players in the NBA.
Once some measure of time passes, Atlanta will have looked like geniuses for the way in which it kept Josh Smith for a pittance. Of course, the situation looked nothing like cunning as it happened; more than anything, the consensus feeling is that Smith shouldn't have inked the $58 million contract offer from Memphis, because the Hawks would be stupid not to match. Any team would be stupid not to match.
That says something about Smith's game, that he is almost universally considered worth more than his five-year, $58 million contract. He's made his name as a shotblocker without peer, and as a dunker of unholy intention. He excels, in fact, at finishing and blocking that those two facets seems to overwhelm his otherwise complete game.
On a team which has lacked a decent distributor Smith's entire tenure, Josh (a power forward in a small forward 's body and a shooting guard's sneakers) has picked up the slack. Here, he's a lesser Andre Iguodala: able to see the court, able to pass ... and sometimes willing to do so. It's a good bet, passing it off, because Smith with the ball will always draw so much attention. When Smith slips into the lane, the defense will crash. The ability to find an open man is a boon, and it should develop further as Smith hones his offensive game.
The other thing about lacking a true point guard all this years: Smith should be getting a ton more easy buckets. His percentages are pitiful, in large part because his jumper sucks. But he's also not been put in a position to get easy dunks or lay-ups because no one is setting the table for him. Contrast this with Amare Stoudemire, who basically has a cast of four whose job description includes "get Amare buckets." Not to slight STAT, who I obviously think quite highly of ... but imagine if Smith had this luxury? Imagine Joe Johnson or Mike Bibby looked to get Smith loose in the lane every other time down? Those percentages would rise, and Josh's scoring would see a major boost.
That's the only real weakness in Smith's game, scoring efficiency. The rebounding is stellar, the off-ball defense is immaculate. Seriously, the lack of a go-to offensive move and some offensive help is what keeps Smith from being one of the league's elite. He's got the tools in spades ... and at age 22, he's got plenty of time to add one more.