Al Horford and Josh Smith are All-Stars. Period.

Recognize.

Hey, I know it's early, but I don't care. I want to get way ahead of the inevitable national curve and holler from the fingertips: I love the way that Al Horford and Josh Smith are playing, and they are both playing on an All-Star level.

Heck, we said it last season, the two most deserving All-Star caliber players on the Hawks last season were Horford, who did actually make it, and Smith, who was responsible for the Hawks taking the leap forward that they did last season.

But, in the end, it was Joe Johnson and not Smith who made the team with Al.

But that won't happen again. Not this season. Not going like this.

And it's not just because of the noted decline in Joe's play, but rather that Josh's excellence is growing. 

Smith scored a triple-double in their win over Toronto Sunday afternoon and, when playing at the high level he was over the weekend, makes victories a lot easier for the Hawks. 

Much will be made by all of us about Josh's interest in the jump shot as a prime offensive weapon, but just as interesting to me are strides made in his defensive rebounding prowess, an area in which the Hawks, team-wise, sorely need to improve.

Smith's Defensive Rebounding Rate and Total Rebounding Rate are up over last season and Smith actually ranks 22nd in defensive rebounding and 33rd overall, which is significant improvement thus far over his 58th and 59th ranking during his breakout season a year ago. With little additional help coming off the bench this offseason, improvement in the existing core is critical.

In addition, Smoove's block rate is also back to where it was during his first four seasons in the league, all while maintaining his plus level efficiency stats.

As for Horford, all he's done is begin to take his place among the best and most productive players in the league even though at times it seems his own team forgets.

The Hawks two young big men are continuing to rise, and the health of the team is better off for it, even if so far this season it looks like it's losing one all-star as one steps up to take his place.

It's not news, nor an outlandish proclamation, but one worth making just the same.

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