Josh Smith has played nearly his whole career alongside Joe Johnson in Atlanta. The two have been a “less than dynamic duo” for the Hawks, playing well but never clearing the hump to reach the top of the Eastern Conference.
Now Johnson is in Brooklyn, paving the way for Smith to lead the Hawks by himself. Smith played in every game last year for Atlanta, posting career highs in points and rebounds per game. He has positioned himself to take the next step in his career and be the face of a franchise, not just one of its good players.
If Johnson’s departure is not enough motivation, Smith is also in the final year of his contract. Whether the future of his career is in Atlanta or somewhere else, he has a chance to earn big bucks this year.
I have been consistently impressed with Smith’s play over the years, but he also has one big fault. There are times when he settles for contested jump shots instead of driving or passing. He is an incredibly athletic guy with a constantly improving post game that you see take way too many shots from the outside. If he is going to lead his team, he is going have to cut out the ill-advised shots from his repertoire.
Aside from that, Smith has all the tools to become a star. He has a tendency to be a little immature, but that is mostly because he is so passionate about the game, and that is something you need in a leader.
Along with Smith, the Hawks have put together a pretty talented lineup. If Al Horford can stay healthy this year, he should continue to improve and has a chance to be on the list of top NBA big men. The Hawks also added a few new faces including Kyle Korver, Devin Harris and DeShawn Stevenson who could bring some new elements to the team.
One thing is for sure though, Josh Smith is the leader of this team. In a competitive Eastern Conference, the Hawks will go only as far as Smith can take them.