Cartoons are awesome. They’re fun little diversions that help anyone delve into the depths of their imagination and explore. Sometimes they’re silly, sometimes they’re heroic, and sometimes they’re straight up confusing.
Sometimes silly, sometimes heroic, and sometimes confusing? That sounds likes a lot like… Josh Smith?
Wednesday night’s game against the Cavaliers brought out all of these traits from Smoove. Early off, he wasn’t doing much, seemed a little hyped up, and received a technical for arguing; silliness. Then, in the 2nd quarter with the Hawks already facing a huge deficit, Josh took control and brought the Hawks back, scoring ten points, grabbing six of his 17 boards, and dishing out three assists; heroic. And of course, no game is complete without several errant jumpers (1-9 FGs) from outside 16 feet; confusion!
If you really need more proof, check out this possession against the Thunder. Hoopinion’s Bret LaGree describes it as, “the most Josh Smith possession ever.”
Josh isn’t alone in that he exhibits these traits; most players do from time-to-time. However, few have the ability to throw all three to the max in one game quite like Smoove does. And that, in my opinion, is what is truly holding him back from being a great player in this league.
By all means, Josh’s numbers this year are great. He’s averaging almost 18 and 10, with four assists and two blocks. Add that in with his All-World defense, and it appears as if you have the ingredients of an amazing player sitting before you. But, the fact that Josh can change between those three traits at any moment throughout the game means you are going to have trouble with reliability. How can you trust the guy if you never know what you are going to get from him? In the past few years, the equalizing force for Atlanta has been Al Horford. He may not be as good as Smoove, but Al always gave you the same effort every game; the bastion of consistency on a team that is so often tangled in the opposite.
However, Al is likely out for the rest of the season and playoffs, and the Hawks needs Smith to add Horford’s attribute of consistency to his already loaded arsenal. Certainly he has shown flashes that he can; for the first seven games in March, he was averaging 26 and 10 on 51% shooting from the field. With Joe Johnson on the mend for most of those games, Josh became the go-to guy on the team, and he surely did not disappoint. To be honest, those would be MVP caliber numbers if he could come anywhere close to maintaining that. However, he fell hard from that peak, and has been shooting 35% over the past five games. (Averages of 18/10 and seven (!) assists over that span are still somewhat impressive, though)
Now, it’s unfair to ask Josh to average MVP numbers in Horford’s absence based on a seven game sample-size; basketball just doesn’t work that way. However, that seven game span shows what Josh Smith is truly capable of when consistency is not an issue. With how aware Josh is of his critics, he’s got to know that we expect a lot from him as the face of the franchise. (Joe Johnson is not the face of the franchise. We fans just got excited for him in a game where he went 7-19. I don’t care how much he’s paid.) Putting up those amazing numbers while playing to his strengths (Jumpshooting isn’t a strength, Josh) would be a great way to shut all of those critics up and give the Hawks great position come playoff time.
Now, the silliness and confusion aren’t just going to go away like that, and you can’t expect a player to put up heroic performances night-in and night-out. However, there is a space in between those traits that avoids the extremes, and that is where a player excels. Josh needs to find this space to take his game to the next-level.
Now, there comes a time in one’s life where you get over cartoons. You get over the silliness and fanatic heroism. Confusion becomes less likely from where your mind has grown and learned with time. Essentially, you grow up, start accepting responsibilities, and become the best person you can be. Well Josh, it’s your time.
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