Top 50: Josh Smith, no. 27

by Manny Maduakolam / @No_Ceiling2

What do you think are some of the worst things that can happen to a player in the NBA?

I’m pretty sure getting dunked on is in your top 3. It’s demoralizing to a man and sometimes destroys careers, just ask Shawn Bradley. Who doesn’t love watching a good dunk, juJosh Smithst like a homerun in MLB or a huge hit in the NFL? Getting dunked on is an amazing thing to witness.

When the NBA is in full swing, we can always count on ESPN Top 10 Plays to see some highlights that make you jump out your seat. Josh Smith is one of the players who is a common fixture in that Top 10.

There are NBA players who, when you have an opportunity to watch them play, you wouldn’t miss it for the world because, quite frankly, you don’t want to be the guy in the bar conversation who missed a game-winning dunk or the guy in the lunch room who didn’t see Josh Smith throw a Brandon Jennings shot off the backboard.

Who can ever forget the 2005 Slam Dunk Contest when Josh Smith caught an alley-oop and hit a windmill from outside the circle… over Kenyon Martin. Or even better, when he threw on the Dominique Wilkins jersey and hit the windmill from outside the box. I literally was speaking in tongues after I saw that dunk; the man has springs for legs.

Name some of the most electric players in the NBA right now. Of course, you hear the usual, but one man who you must count is Josh Smith. Athletic ability alone, there’s few in the League who even come close to this man; just ask Steve Nash, or Kendrick Perkins, or Primoz Brezec, and that’s just to name a few.

But what makes him different from the Desmond Masons and Fred Jones of the world is he actually can do a lot more than dunk (go figure, right?). The six-year, 6-9 240-pound Oak Hill alum has cemented himself as more than just a quality player in the NBA, but an all-around force in the League.

His running mate, Joe Johnson, gets all the attention and love out of Atlanta but it’s Josh Smith who makes that team go, and it’s Josh Smith who is the leader of that team, third on the team scoring, second in rebounding and assists, first in steals, first in shooting percentage. Smith played every game last season, and voted to the Second Team All-Defensive team.

This man is a complete and solid NBA player who performs when called upon and always takes the hardest defensive assignments, normally guarding defends players who are bigger than him (he’s a 6-9 “powerforward”).

The most surprising thing about Josh Smith is that he’s never been to an All-Star game yet in his career *cough cough* like he should have been last season. A player who has improved every year since being drafted 2004 and seventh overall by the Atlanta Hawks, all Josh Smith has done since being selected is get better.

He won the NBA Slam Dunk Contest during his rookie year in the 2005 by a land slide with some of the sickest dunks I have ever seen, displaying his superior athletic ability and creativity. But just being a “dunker” was not enough for Josh Smith, he went on to averaged 9.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.95 blocks per game for the ‘04–05 season and was selected to the Second Team All-Rookie team.

He continued his steady development as the years went by, improving in every facet of his game making him a complete and well-rounded basketball player. On February 2, 2010, against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Smith became the youngest player (at 24 years old) to block 1,000 shots, and he’s only improving.

He may even unseat back-to-back Defensive Player of the Year Dwight Howard this upcoming season. It’s time for this man to get his just rewards and recognition, and I firmly believe NBA fans will take notice.

Player Team Position 2010 2009 2010 2009
Ray Allen Celtics SG 50 36 11 10
Gilbert Arenas Wizards SG 49 34 10 9
Lamar Odom Lakers PF 48 33 14 10
John Wall Wizards PG 47 NR 13 NR
OJ Mayo Grizzlies SG 46 46 9 12
Al Horford Hawks C 45 NR 6 NR
Jason Kidd Mavs PG 44 45 12 10
Joakim Noah Bulls C 43 NR 5 NR
LaMarcus Aldridge Blazers PF 42 39 13 12
David West Hornets PF 41 31 12 8
Monta Ellis Warriors SG 40 NR 8 NR
Andrew Bogut Bucks C 39 NR 4 NR
Yao Ming Rockets C 38 NR 3 NR
Brandon Jennings Bucks PG 37 NR 11 NR
Zach Randolph Grizzlies PF 36 NR 11 NR
Stephen Curry Warriors PG 35 NR 10 NR
David Lee Warriors PF 34 NR 10 NR
Brook Lopez Nets C 33 NR 2 NR
Gerald Wallace Bobcats SF 32 NR 6 NR
Manu Ginobili Spurs SG 31 29 7 8
Tony Parker Spurs PG 30 15 9 3
Kevin Garnett Celtics PF 29 13 9 3
Rudy Gay Grizzlies SF 28 44 5 9
Josh Smith Hawks PF 27 40 8 13

• Rankings are based solely on projected ’10-11 performance.
• Contributors to this list include: Jeremy Bauman, Maurice Bobb, Erildas Budraitis, Sean Ceglinsky, Ben Collins, Bryan Crawford, Sandy Dover, Adam Figman, Manny Maduakolam, Eddie Maisonet, Ryne Nelson, Doobie Okon, Ben Osborne, Charles Peach, Branden Peters, Quinn Peterson, David Schnur, Todd Spehr, Kyle Stack, Adam Sweeney, Dennis Tarwood, Tracy Weissenberg, Lang Whitaker, Eric Woodyard, and Nima Zarrabi.
• Want more of the SLAMonline Top 50? Check out the archive.