Saturday, October 5th, 2013 at 12:00 pm  |  32 responses

Top 50: Josh Smith, no. 27

With his Atlanta days over, J-Smoove is ready for a fresh start in Detroit.

by Tracy Weissenberg / @basketballista

Electric. Versatile. Polarizing. Never been an All-Star. Exactly how good is Josh Smith?

• Since Smith’s rookie season in ‘04-05, his averages of 15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks have been matched by only one other player: Tim Duncan.
• From 13 wins in his rookie season, the Hawks won 53 games in ’09-10, and have made six straight playoff appearances.
• Smith is 37th on the all-time blocks list with 1,440. At age 24, he became the youngest player to reach 1,000 career blocks. He also led the Hawks in blocks per game in each of his nine seasons.
• Smith finished second to Dwight Howard in Defensive Player of the Year voting in ‘09-10, yet he was named to the All-Defensive Second-Team. It was his only career appearance on the NBA’s All-Defensive teams.
• The career 28 percent three-point shooter, often criticized for taking too many shots outside his range, attempted a career-high 201 threes last season. While he shot 30.3 percent from beyond the arc, he finished the year with a 46.5 overall field-goal percentage.
• The decline in Smith’s free-throw percentage has been somewhat baffling. He shot a career-low 51.7 percent from the line last season.
• Last season, Smith was the only player to average at least 17 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 1.5 blocks.

Smith is a rare NBA talent, a 6-8 super athlete who commands both ends of the floor. He shouldered the majority of the Hawks’ woes as a 19-year-old hometown rookie in 2004, and probably never received enough of the credit for pacing the team’s rise.

On and off the court, Smith sometimes gets criticized for his lack of polish. He doesn’t always make the right play, but he is far from the only player to have an affinity for bad shots. He is counted on to clean up mistakes around the basket, which enabled the perennially undersized Hawks to play decent defense. His protection of the rim was due to great instincts, but also necessity, since he never played with a true center during his time in Atlanta.

If you closely watch him play, there are many times when Smith makes the game look so easy it masks his ability. He flies down the floor, passing like a point guard and dunking like a center. Change positions? He’s willing. Guard 3s or 4s or 5s? He’s done it. Smith played iso basketball with Joe Johnson as the focal point and adapted to the motion offense under Larry Drew. He has played through shuffled rosters, trade talk, a lot of scrutiny and a little praise.

As he leaves the only basketball home he has ever known in Atlanta, it looks like a change of scenery will do him good. He will share the floor with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond, two big men who can shoulder some of the defensive responsibility. The new backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Chauncey Billups should be able to make the offense come easier to the potent frontcourt.

If Smith plays within himself, he should see more open shots, including mid-range opportunities. The help on defense will give him fresher legs, and a potential offensive spark. If he starts the season with a consistent mid-range game, he should have a great scoring year with the inevitable dunks, lay-ins and putbacks he is known for.

Detroit had an underrated offseason, setting the franchise up to right the ship after missing the postseason for four straight years. Smith, the marquee acquisition, was somewhat of a bargain at four years, $54 million. At 27 years old, and in the midst of his prime, Smith is bringing nine seasons of experience, and 52 career Playoff games.

With a new coach, team and system, I expect Smith to wholeheartedly buy into the Pistons’ vision. He has proven able to learn new roles and adapt, and has never been enamored with or consumed by his own stat lines. Between Mo Cheeks, player development coach Rasheed Wallace—who won a title in Detroit in 2004—and a revamped starting lineup, the Pistons look poised to develop into a contender. I think Smith will use this opportunity to assert himself as a leader (a role he toyed with in Atlanta), and not just go along for the ride.

Ranked no. 27, Smith has his flaws, but he is immensely talented and a great off-season acquisition. When it’s all said and done, I don’t think Pistons fans will like him. I think they will love him.

Where should Josh Smith rank in the SLAM Top 50?

Loading ... Loading ...
SLAMonline Top 50 Players 2013
Rank Player Team Position Pos. Rank
50 Monta Ellis Mavs SG 5
49 Luol Deng Bulls SF 10
48 Ricky Rubio TWolves PG 14
47 Greg Monroe Pistons PF 12
46 Kawhi Leonard Spurs SF 9
45 Mike Conley Grizzlies PG 13
44 Al Jefferson Bobcats C 9
43 David Lee Warriors PF 11
42 Jrue Holiday Pelicans PG 12
41 Anthony Davis Pelicans PF 10
40 Joe Johnson Nets SG 4
39 Serge Ibaka Thunder PF 9
38 Kevin Garnett Nets PF 8
37 Rudy Gay Raptors SF 8
36 Paul Pierce Nets SF 7
35 Ty Lawson Nuggets PG 11
34 Pau Gasol Lakers PF 7
33 Al Horford Hawks C 8
32 Andre Iguodala Warriors SF 6
31 Brook Lopez Nets C 7
30 Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 6
29 DeMarcus Cousins Kings C 6
28 Damian Lillard Blazers PG 10
27 Josh Smith Hawks SF 5

Rankings are based on expected contribution in ’13-14—to players’ team, the League and the game.

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  • spit hot fiyah

    please slam! the krs one song, that woman’s annoying voice is getting imprinted in my brain.

  • danpowers

    “Newly acquired point guard Brandon Jennings [... ], should make the offense come easier to the potent frontcourt.”

    syntax error

  • danpowers

    how dare you…

  • shockexchange

    (Larry Sanders voice) “Jennings has to pass it to them first.”

  • Hum


  • danpowers

    actually you’re fourth.

  • star

    daresay josh smith is an underrated player?

  • ATL dynamite

    I was really, really hoping a good write up for smoove to explain his ranking. Now I realized that I shouldn’t be serious about it at all.

  • spit hot fiyah


  • ctk

    Should of been top 20

  • spit hot fiyah

    let me vent a little bit. this is another terrible write up. it doesn’t nothing to convince anyone that smith will be or should be considered the 27th best player this upcoming season.

    personally i don’t care if josh smith or any other player is ranked ten spots too high or ten spots too low. but i do want to see some good writing that justifies why he has this ranking. the ibaka write up was a good one, that one actually made u think about the ranking and it provided some good arguments.

    most of these are like career overviews and talk about the upcoming season of the player in terms of “if he plays within himself” and “if he buys into the team concept”.

    instead convince me why he will play within himself

    rant over

  • cyrus langhorne

    Umm he will pass more he has more talent with the pistons the bucks had nothing him & monta had to take shots! I can’t wait untill the season starts so you internet weirdos can STFU !!!.

  • spit hot fiyah

    brandon? what’s crackin’. tell sheed i said wassup

  • guest
  • shockexchange

    Brandon, little do you know, there’s an app that allows us to see through the computer.

  • Junior Taylor

    Josh Smith is in no shape or form better than Al Horford.

  • http://twitter.com/sooperfadeaway nbk


  • danpowers


  • danpowers

    dude, im actually rooting for this pistons team and hope they will work. id also love to see jenning play like a mature point guard and come up with some bball IQ, i just dont expect it. im afraid the biggest way in which jennings will help his frontcourt is to give them more opportunities for offensive rebounds than they ever had lol

  • Ryan

    I’m a Pistons fan. I”m not a fan of either Josh Smith or Brandon Jennings… it’s going to be a long, long season. Anyone out there with a legit explanation of Smith’s game?

  • Caboose

    I mean, the ranking is whatever at this point, but I want to hear an ARGUMENT about why the player is where he is, not a career summary. This isn’t ESPN.

  • Caboose

    “(Smith) has proven able to learn new roles and adapt, and has never been enamored with or consumed by his own stat lines.” Proof please.

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  • russian guy

    He is a better 4 than a 3 and as a 4 he won’t even be better than Greg Monroe offensively.

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