Will they ever put it together?
A fair question for a talented Atlanta Hawks team that have made the playoffs the last five seasons and the second round the last three seasons coming into this year’s playoffs.
With an amazing starting five featuring All-Stars Joe Johnson and Al Horford, a shot-blocking specialist and in Josh Smith, and the up and coming Jeff Teague running point–on paper this team has what it takes to win.
But here we are with the Atlanta Hawks giving a “one and done” performance in the first round of the playoffs, when they were ousted by the Boston Celtics (4-2). Now the Atlantic brass have a difficult question on their hands, where do we go from here?
There’s no denying the talent on this veteran ball club– always on the cusp of being legitimate title contenders–but they have yet to make it past the NBA semifinals in Joe Johnson’s tenure in Atlanta. After 3 years with this core group, the Hawks believe they need to make move to get over the “hump.”
And for some reason the Hawks have expressed interest in trading Josh Smith. Despite troubles with former Hawks coach, Mike Woodson, Josh “J-Smoove” Smith is the sole reason why the Hawks have been in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference this last couple of years.
Yes like most high school drafted NBA players there are “attitude problems” and issues of “maturity” but it’s unfair how long these stereotypical tags have hung on Smith. Smith–especially in the last couple of years–has made great strides to mature even becoming a leader and captain of this Hawks team
From Austin Kent, The Good Point:
“I’ve been faced with the opportunity to be one of the captains of this team, so with that there are a lot of expectations that I have to be able to match,” Smith tells The Good Point. “It’s my eighth season so each and every year I gain a little bit of wisdom, getting older and understanding what it takes in order to win in this league.”
Smith is a freak athlete and a rare talent–on both ends of the floor–whose ability is unmatched by any Atlanta Hawk currently on the roster today. This past season Smith scored 18.8 points, grabbed 9.8 rebounds, dished 3.9 assists, swatted 1.7 shots, and had 1.4 steals–All-Star statline and effort unmatched by any other player all season long. He brings so many things to this team and he hasn’t reached his full potential–at least offensively he hasn’t.
A frequent scouting report on Smith was that he had tremendous athleticism but settles way too often on jumpers–especially 3-pointers shooting a lowly 28 percent from deep. Similar to Lebron James and Dwyane Wade, Smith this season has cut down on on these three point attempts and started driving to the basket more.
If the Hawks do end up pulling the trigger, they should trade Joe Johnson. Yes, Johnson is a multiple time All-Star but his role on this team as “regulated jacker’’ is very simplistic. Since coming to Hawks, he’s help improve this team but since he signed his questionable and very lucrative 120 million dollar contract his skill set has dropped off. “Iso Joe” no longer puts his head down and drives to basket but lives and dies on the perimeter, averaging a pedestrian 3.1 free throw attempts this season–his lowest average in a Hawks uniform. If this is all Johnson brings to table now, the Hawks can and should find a younger option–especially one that will be willing to get to foul line.
As a result, the Hawks shouldn’t trade Josh Smith because he’s one of the rare “game-changers” in the league like Dwight Howard or soon to be first round draft pick Anthony Davis. These players have amazing impact on the court–on both ends of the floor–and impact so many possessions they can completely control the pace of a game. Yet, he doesn’t get the respect he deserves because his past, which was put on display this season when he wasn’t named an All-Star or name on the NBA All-Defensive teams. Josh Smith can still help this Hawks team win while Joe Johnson has maxed out and has shown signs of slowing down.