The Atlanta Hawks have had all sorts of problems over the course of the 2012-13 season. Their backcourt play has been shoddy at times, and Devin Harris and others have spent plenty of time injured, and they have lost their share of close games. Yet through it all, the team enters play on Wednesday night five-games above .500 and comfortably in the No. 6 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff race. Why has this team continued to win games this year? Josh Smith.
Averaging over 35 minutes per night, Smith is the constant in this lineup. He commands respect on both sides of the court, and when he is at his best, there are few in the league that can slow him down. The man from Oak Hill Academy isn’t having his best season, but he is averaging 16.7 points and 8.5 boards per game, ranking first and second on the team in those categories respectively.
When he’s not getting his points, Smith is getting the job done on the defensive end of the court, where he has put up 2.2 blocks and 1.2 steals per game as well.
Smith has really stepped it up over the course of his last six games. In that stretch, he has three games with 20+ points, five games with 10+ rebounds, and five double-doubles. He has blocked 11 shots in those five games, right on his average for the year, and he has five steals as well.
What is underrated about Smith’s game though, is his ability to distribute the basketball. He didn’t have a single assist against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday night, but he had seven straight games with at least three assists prior to that.
There are very few men at 6’9″ that have the skill set that he does to be able to play every facet of the game at a high level.