NBA Roundtable

Josh Smith Article + Al Horford

In General NBA on January 14, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Very good article over at the Atlanta Journal Constitutional by Steve Hummer

Here is a different view of the Mike Woodson-Josh Smith dynamic, often cast as a cola-meets-paint-shaker kind of relationship.

Yes, coach and player have had their blow-ups over the last five-plus seasons. They are, after all, two emotional sorts whose fortunes are married. So why not behave like any other couple?

But as Woodson has told his young star and now tells us, there always has been a baseline of affection beneath the turmoil.

Go over to the coach’s house — hypothetically, this is not an actual invitation. Peek into his office. Know what you’ll find?

“The only picture you’re gonna see in there is of Josh Smith [it’s one of Woodson hugging Smith, nicknamed J-Smoove],” the Hawks head man said.

“Why? Because he started with me from scratch and he’s still hanging in there with me. He probably caught more hell than any player I’ve coached. Smoove’s still with me; and his picture has been there for the last two years.”

They cuss and fuss, you see, because they care.

Check out the whole article. It’s a good read. The rest of the article details Josh Smith’s growth as a player.

Josh Smith

Actually, while we’re here, let’s briefly mention two things — first up Josh Smith

Season Splits

Josh Smith November December January
MPG 34.3 28.3 38.1
PPG 15.7 13.7 13.3
RPG 9.7 6.4 8.1
BPG 2.8 1.86 1.28
FG% 51.6% 48.3% 48.6%

Josh Smith got off to a fantastic start this season. It looked like he was finally coming good on all of that potential but ever since then his game has been dropping off. Smith is still playing very good basketball. He just hasn’t been able to maintain his hot start.

  • Per minute rebounding was 10.18 per 36 in November to 8.14 in December to 7.65 in January.
  • Field goal percentage down from 51.6% to the 48.5% range
  • Blocked shots went down 30% by December and have more than halved so far in January.
  • Scoring was fairly consistent over November (16.5 per 36) and December (17.5 per 36) but has dropped off early in January.
  • Josh Smith’s decline in field goal percentage + his poor free throw shooting percentage (60.2% this season, below career average of 67%) has led to a mediocre true shooting percentage mark of 53.7%.

Josh Smith was on track to be one of the most improved players in the NBA this season but his case is losing steam, as is his All-Star bid, due to this declining production. He needs to step it up, particularly the rebounding + shot blocking (defense in general really), and get back to where he was over the first month of the regular season.

Al Horford

Horford has shown some nice improvement this season too

Scoring efficiency

  • Field Goal Percentage — Horford shot 50% + 52.5% from the field over his first two years. This season he’s hitting almost 58% of his shot attempts.
  • True Shooting Percentage — TS% has improved from 53.9% to 56.5% to 61.2% this season.

Scoring

  • Slight increase in scoring up to a career high of 13.4 (previous high was 11.5) despite only a small change in minutes earned.

His improvement offensively is one of the reason’s Atlanta’s offensive efficiency has improved this season. Also, Al Horford has made these improvements while maintaining his defensive + rebounding contributions.

More Valuable

Which player has been more valuable to his team this season?

  • Defense has been comparable
  • Al Horford has the advantage in rebounding
  • Josh Smith has a more varied skill-set offensively but Horford is much more efficient.
  • Josh Smith has the advantage in passing ability

Both players have been highly comparable to one another this season. You could make a case for either player or just admit they’ve been very close to one another and leave at that … let’s do that.

Their level of improvement from this season compared to the last is also comparable.

Defense

On a final note, I just wanted to briefly mention one area I’m disappointed in and that’s defense. Both players have played above average defense this season, good defense, but both players are capable of doing a lot more on that end of the floor. Particularly Josh Smith. These two players, and the Hawks, are further hurt by Zaza Pachulia who fails to provide quality defense while they’re out of the game lowering the Hawks big man defensive contributions further.

Their inconsistent effort defensively is one of the main reasons for Atlanta ranks 12th in defensive efficiency and only 20th in defensive eFG%. The main strength of Atlanta’s defense continues to be the strong defensive wing play from Joe Johnson, Marvin Williams and Mo Evans.

Josh Smith is capable of playing All-League defense and Al Horford is capable of playing very good defense. They need to step up their focus and redouble their efforts defensively. Provide a tougher backbone to the Hawks on the interior.

Smith and Horford are hurt, to a degree, by Atlanta’s constant need to switch on pick and rolls in order to hide Mike Bibby. They would be more effective defensively if the Hawks had a point guard with a modicum of defensive ability. So they get some reprieve for that but both players are capable of more defensively and that should be their primary goal for the Hawks so it’s disappointing not so more out of them defensively.

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