Saturday, July 5, 2008

TARGET #2: JOSH SMITH



I've had my eye on Josh Smith since I first saw his Oak Hill Academy highlight videos the year he was drafted back in 2004. From the very first seconds, I could tell he was going to be a special player. Fast forward 4 years, and now he's become one of the best defenders in the league and one of the top free agents of 2008.

Although Andre Iguodala is my #1 choice, Josh Smith is a close #2. Both are restricted free agents, allowing their current teams to match any offer from Golden State, but Josh Smith might be the one that is easier to obtain. This is because Atlanta ownership is in disarray, is having financial troubles, is looking towards the future in locking up Joe Johnson and other key pieces, and does not seem to have a cohesive vision that will agree to match a generous offer.

Currently, the 76ers are in hot pursuit of Josh Smith, wooing him with all they've got and dedicating all their available capspace to signing him this summer. Their highest offer is projected to be a 5 year deal starting at around $12.5 million once the new salary cap level is set. The Warriors, however, have much more money to offer as a result of Baron Davis' surprise opt-out. Hopefully, the Warriors feel that Josh Smith is worth the price and tenders an offer sheet large enough to discourage the Hawks from matching.

Josh Smith is a great fit for our fast paced style of play because of his elite athleticism. He'll be able to play all three positions in the front court under Don Nelson. His length and shot blocking ability will make him a key piece in the chaotic defensive style meant to harass the opponents into mistakes that trigger transition buckets. Smith is a terrific finisher at the rim and delivers punishing dunks that could send teammates and crowds into a frenzy while demoralizing opponents. He's shown that he has range out to the 3 point line, but will have to work on developing more consistency. At age 22, sky's the limit for this rising star, who is already considered one of the best defenders and the #1 rebounding SF in the NBA.

Birth Date December 5, 1985
Birth Place College Park, GA
Height 6-9
Weight 235 lbs.
Age 22
Position PF


ESPN Game Log

ESPN Scouting Report:

2006-07 season: Step back and look at the big picture, and you'll see Smith took another step on the way to stardom.

While questions linger about his maturity and attitude, Smith's play in the second half of last season left little doubt that he's an All-Star in the making. In the final two months of the season, Smith averaged 20.6 points, 9.8 boards and 3.1 blocks; for the season he added 3.6 points to his 40-minute scoring average while also adding one full rebound.

The best part of that stretch was how Smith cut down on shooting 3s and focused on going to the basket. Smith is a poor jump shooter who made only 25.0 percent from downtown, but fired away often early in the season -- he took 3.5 triples per game in November. By the final two months, that number was cut in half, even though he was taking many more shots overall.

That change was long overdue, as Smith was among the league's least accurate shooters from outside the basket area. On non-layup 2-pointers he made only 30.3 percent; the only player with over 200 attempts to fare worse was Stephon Marbury. He was especially bad on 2-pointers from the left side -- he only converted 27.2 percent, the fourth-worst mark in the league.

And as you might imagine, Smith's free-throw attempts ballooned once he started going to the basket more. He ranked 14th among small forwards in free throw attempts per field goal attempt.

Scouting report: Smith's leaping ability is his greatest asset, with a quick lift off the floor that helped him lead all small forwards in blocked shots per minute and rate third at the position in rebound rate. The lefty excels at taking his rebounds and heading up court with them -- he almost certainly started more transition opportunities than the Hawks' guards -- and he's a great finisher at the end of the play.

Smith is a good passer, but has a high dribble and can be turnover prone, especially when he tries to attack in the half court. That's one reason he settles for the jumper quite a bit, something opponents try to bait him into.

Smith has improved at the defensive end thanks to the usual rookie learning curve and some added muscle, but he still has a ways to go. He's an awesome weak-side shot-blocker and earned a couple All-Defense votes for it, but tends to lose sight of his man away from the ball and rarely boxes out. He also seems to get confused on coverage schemes quite a bit -- an inordinate number of opponent baskets last season ended with Smith and a teammate making confused pointing motions.

2007-08 outlook: Smith has played vastly better in the second half the past two seasons; if he can match that with some quality first-half output he has a chance at a breakout year. The Hawks are likely to be one of the league's most improved teams, and in this conference that means Smith has a shot at an All-Star berth if he can cement the gains from the final two months of last season.

The Hawks also need to extend his contract, but the finish to last season might complicate matters. Smith earned a suspension after screaming at head coach Mike Woodson late in a meaningless April game; it wasn't his first run-in either. This might give Atlanta pause when breaking out the checkbook, but ultimately the threat of an insane offer by another team a year from now should get them to commit to something in the $55-60 million range.

Most similar at age: Tracy McGrady


With Josh Smith on the roster, the defensive intensity is ratcheted up big time. The perimeter players are able to gamble more for steals and deflections knowing Smith and Biedrins or Wright are there to erase any mistakes.

PG: Monta Ellis / C.J. Watson / FA
SG: Kelenna Azubuike / Marco Belinelli / FA
SF: Stphen Jackson / Al Harrington / Anthony Randolph
PF: Josh Smith / Brandan Wright / Richard Hendrix
C: Andris Biedrins / Kosta Perovic / FA


Top 100 Josh Smith dunks (warning on lyrics)
From: mixstealer300




Josh Smith - The Highlight Reel
From: Vitch




Josh Smith - Top 10 of the 2006-2007 Season
From: NBA TV




Josh Smith - 2 Fast, 2 Furious
From: Vitch

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