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The Next Step In The Evolution Of Josh Smith

Josh Smith rose to fame during his rookie season when he won the Sprite Slam Dunk Championship in 2005. Last season he started to prove he’s more than just a high flyer by averaging 17.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.8 blocks last season. This season he’s continued his steady play by averaging 15.8 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.7 swats.

Despite posting some impressive personal stats and helping Atlanta to the playoffs the past two seasons, there are still many critics who claim he’s nothing more than a dunker who scores while slashing to the bucket or while in transition.

This means Smith is like any other 23-year-old: there’s still plenty of room for improvement and growth in his game.

Smith is aware of this and has placed an emphasis this season on improving his outside shot to keep opposing defenses honest. As a career 26.9%  shooter from beyond the arc, his 29.4% this season won’t catch your attention. However, when you look at the 42.9% he shoot from three-point land in March it’s clear the young forward has been putting some time into this area of his game.

“Yeah, I’ve got to stretch my game out a little bit more,” Smith admitted to Hoops Addict. “But that doesn’t take away from my strengths of me being able to drive the basketball, it just opens up more avenues in my game if I can start knocking down the three-point shot consistently.”

While it doesn’t take away from his game it definitely adds to it as well as to the success of his teammates.

When asked by Hoops Addict how a perimeter game would open up looks for his teammates, Smith couldn’t hold back a grin at the thought of how much an improvement in that area of his game would help elevate the entire team.

“If I can help out (Mike) Bibby, Mo (Evans) and Flip (Murray) who have been hitting open shots, it makes it hard for a defense to zero in on Joe (Johnson). It also prevents them from clogging up the paint because we have three-point shooters.”

These are the same sentiments that were echoed by Joe Johnson, the face of the franchise.

“I think it makes us a deadlier team when he’s a triple-threat,” Johnson told Hoops Addict. “He can post up or he can be one of four guys we can line up on the perimeter who can knock down a three.  It makes us really tough to guard.”

Think about it: Atlanta has a 6’9″  power forward the can run in transition, score in the paint and now draw opposing defenses out past the three-point arc. This clears up room for Al Horford to grab more rebounds, Joe Johnson can slash to the rim more often and there are more mid-range jumpers for everyone on the team.

If Smith can continue to work on this aspect of his game he’ll rack up countless trips to future All-Star games and help Atlanta drive deep into the playoffs each season.

That and he’ll give the rest of the coaches and players around the NBA nightmares at the thought of trying to figure out a game plan to slow him down.

Ryan McNeill
Ryan McNeill has appeared on ESPN Radio, MTV Canada, SiriusXM, The Fan 590 and other radio programs and TV shows. He has covered the NBA with media credentials since the 2007-08 season.
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