The Ball So Hard 50: Josh Smith, no. 21

Sick of arguing with your friends about who is the best player in the NBA? Leading into the ’13-14 NBA Season, Ball So Hard will be putting an end to the debate. Here is the decisive list of the 50 best NBA players.

Note: predictions are for the up coming season and rank players on how they will perform in the ’13-14 season.

Josh Smith

Image: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

No. 21, Josh Smith

If you asked 10 different friends their opinion about Josh Smith, you’ll get 10 different answers. Smith is one of, if not the most polarising player in the league.

When he was drafted in 2004, Jay Bilas called Smith the player “most likely to be a bust in the first round”, and many today still call him overrated.

But many others say he is the best player in the league not be named an All-Star and preach that he is underrated.

Name another player that has simultaneously been called overrated and underrated for the past nine years.

The criticisms of Smiths’ game are well documented. Yes, he does fall in love with deep jump shots sometimes, despite being a career 28.3% three-point shooter. And he doesn’t seem to be growing out of the bad habit. Last season, he launch a career high 201 threes at only 30.3%.

But all too often those criticisms take away from the phenomenal numbers that J-Smoove puts up elsewhere.

Smith is one of the league’s best defensive players. At 6-9 and 225 pounds, and blessed with otherworldly athleticism, Smoove can dominate games without needing to score.

Last season, he ranked ninth in the league in blocks per game (1.8), 18th in rebounds (8.4), 10th among small forwards in steals (1.24), sixth in assists and third in double-doubles (29), and was 18th in the NBA in field goals and 12th in defensive win shares (4.5).

Critics often pan Smith’s game because of his perceived inadequacies on offence, but he is one of the most versatile players in the league. You are just as likely to see him finishing a fast break with a ridiculous dunk or going coast-to-coast as you are likely to see him starting one with a rebound or a block and outlet pass or pushing the ball and dishing the assist.

When Smith does decide to attack the rim, he is virtually unstoppable. Last season, he hit 77.1% of his attempts at the basket – compared to only 32.9% of those taken from 16-23 feet. And his freakish athleticism means he can finish (viciously) over any defender unlucky enough to try and block his shot.

Many people critique Smith’s time with the Atlanta Hawks and point at how his teams never made it past the second round of the playoffs. Nevertheless they did make six straight playoff appearances in the last of J-Smoove’s nine seasons and pushed great Celtics teams to seven games several times – which nothing to sneeze at.

In the end it seemed only natural that Smith and the Hawks go their separate ways. The Hawks are slowly heading towards a rebuild after shipping out Joe Johnson a year earlier, and Smith’s name had been bandied around trade rumours for seasons.

Now a member of the Detroit Pistons, Smith should form one third of the leagues most exciting and intimidating frontcourt alongside Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

Smith and Monroe should provide one of the leagues best one-two frontcourt punches on offence, while Drummond should pair with Smith as the most freakishly athletic defensive duos in the NBA.

There are only a few players in the league that possess Smith’s size and athleticism, and there are even fewer that have been able to capitalise on their God-given gifts.

There is no question about Smith’s abilities on the defensive end, but once again there are question marks about how he will apply himself on the offensive side of the ball.

Detroit offers Smoove a clean slate. Away from the history of his accused failings from disgruntled ATLiens, Smith has an opportunity to push his game to the next level alongside an excitingly revitalised Pistons team.

If he could ever fully reach the potential of his size and skillset, Smith could be a smokey for MVP one day. For now, our predictions will have to be a little more modest. He might not be MVP this season, but you can expect Smith to finally lose the tag of best player in the league to never play in an All-Star game.

2 thoughts on “The Ball So Hard 50: Josh Smith, no. 21

  1. Pingback: The Fiasco 50: Josh Smith, no. 21 | Fiasco Sports

  2. Pingback: Re-ranking the Ball So Hard 50 – 40-36 | BALL SO HARD

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