Greatest of All-Time Atlanta Hawks Series #13: Josh Smith

No, not quite #1 Josh, but you definitely made the list.

 

Welcome back to the GOAT Atlanta Hawks Series. Missed the previous entries? Check them out here:

Preview

#16: Jason Terry

#15: Walt Bellamy

#14: Tree Rollins

 

#13 brings us to the current roster, where our next GOAT Hawk is both loved and scorned by the hometown fans.

He brings us exhalation, exhilaration, and many times, just plain frustration. Whether he's betting it hit rim, trail blocking a sure hoop, or finishing with what folks who know Walt Bellamy might call "gusto", our hometown great at #13 has brought plenty of production when he's on the floor.

Our #13 Greatest of All-Time Atlanta Hawk: J-Smoove, Josh Smith.

Atlanta native Josh Smith finished his high school career and was stolen at #17 by then-GM Billy Knight after Smith's stock dropped from the lottery due to questionable work habits and a raw skill set.

All Smith did was add his seemingly limitless athleticism to the mix his rookie year, revived (for one year at least) the NBA Dunk Contest, and give Hawks fans a draft pick to cheer about. 

During his (457) games as a Hawk, Smith has proven his critics wrong in a few ways. For one, he has worked every offseason in improving his game, and his results on the court seem to prove that out, gaining in PER every season, except for 2008-2009, when he came back from an early season injury and never captured his mojo, logging career lows in block rate and rebound rate.

In fact, he impressed us so much that we put him at the top of our Decade list back in March. 

Excerpt:

Smith has since moved beyond his dunk glory to improve significantly as an all-around player. His PER for his career:

Age 19: 15.4

Age 20: 15.5

Age 21: 18.3

Age 22: 19.0

Age 23: 17.3

Age 24 (current) 22.3

This is the kind of improvement you can only wish to have in a #17 pick. His dip last season can be attributed to his early season injury, which forced most of his numbers to bow slightly, but has obviously made up ground this season, currently in the Top 20 in PER. At his position, he is Top 5 in Assist rate, Assist + (measuring threes from assists), Assist/TO, Blocks, and Steals.

He wanted to work on his post game, so he did that and has become better around the hoop separate from his fast break skills. Last season he heard the critics about the three point attempts and so he eliminated them, going from 110, 152, 99, and 87 over the previous (4) seasons to a career low (7) attempts.

An important note is that, while Smith already ranks 13th in games played as an Atlanta Hawk, he will only turn (25) this December. It's important to remember his previous improvements and age when commenting (as you know we do) about his still not optimized shot attempts and lapses in defensive fundamentals.

That Smith hasn't still harnessed all the potential in his NBA skillset yet and is still 7th in defensive rebound rate, 9th in total rebound rate, 3rd in block rate, and 10th in PER speaks to where Smith may yet end up on lists such as these after his career in the ATL has ended. 

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