I know two facts. Josh Smith is playing at a level he has only briefly touched in his first five seasons, and Josh Smith will break your heart.
The Inspector is never going to be a perfect player. Those do not exist anyway so it is no real knock on him. Josh will shoot a few too many jumpers. He will whine to the refs. And he will probably never be a lock down one on one defender. But so far this season, he has limited or improved upon the negatives, and it seems that extra energy has just been poured into the positives. Are you watching Josh streak down the court off opposing team misses? Are you seeing him not just contest shots but down right know he is going to block the two on one fast break? Apologies for being a bit vulgar, but it is a "screw you" style of play.
Because of distractions and self limitations, Josh at full speed has been so rare he does not even know how to stay on the court. The guy is averaging four fouls a game. With Mike Woodson and his foul aversion personality, that recklessness is a no no, and it has kept Josh at 31 minutes a game.
Well, he is making the most of them. A PER of almost 25, shooting close to 60% from the floor, 2.9 blocks a game, and maybe the most shocking of all 4.4 assists. The guy is leading the Hawks in every major category but points and rebounds. If Josh found two more rebounds a game he would be on the fringes of the MVP discussion.
And before you think I am saying he will be there come April, I know some of these numbers will not hold. The homerism does not run that deep. The PER will probably drop, the shooting percentage cannot hover around 60, and a full assist per game jump over his career high would be staggering, but right now, we should appreciate what Josh Smith is doing on the basketball court. The Denver game was a team victory, but it was a blowout because of Josh. He is playing at a level we have craved for years.
People rarely about-face in personality, and Josh Smith has always been a pouty, enigmatic, emotional player with questionable decision making. The guy could revert to annoying, briefly electric, frustrating, forces you drink beer at an alarming rate player he was the past five season. But if Josh Smith can continue to channel his energy for good, he may be looking at his first all star game. Regardless of projections though and without needing to debate who the Hawks best player is, the preseason murmings appear to be true, Atlanta will go as far as Josh Smith takes them.