What most casualfans know about Hawks forward Josh Smith is that he won the slam-dunk contestas a rookie in 2005, then flamed out in the event last February. Atlanta waseffectively eliminated from the playoff race after it lost 16 of its first 18games last season, so the 20-year-old's transformation into one of the league'smost versatile threats went relatively unnoticed. Smith raised his scoring from8.2 points per game in December to 17.5 in April; he nailed 34 threes after theAll-Star break, which was 34 more than he had before it; and he finished secondin the league in blocked shots, with 208.
The 6'9",225-pound Smith spent the summer patching the biggest holes left in his game:his dribbling and his outside shooting. Coach Mike Woodson says that Smith mustimprove as an on-the-ball defender but will be given "everyopportunity" to help lead a young team--just three regulars are older than25--to its first playoff berth in eight seasons. "Josh is only 20,"says Woodson, "but he's already been thrown to the wolves."
Smith says hisincreased scoring came despite "not having one play run for me." Still,the Hawks are counting on him to help replace the production of forward AlHarrington, who was traded to the Pacers. But even if Smith becomes a focalpoint of the offense this year, don't expect to see him in Las Vegas for theAll-Star festivities--unless he's selected to play in the game. "I'm goingto pass on the dunk contest," he says. "It's time to show people thatI'm the total package."
ProjectedStarting Lineup with 2005--06 statistics
Record: 26--56(T13 in East)
Points scored: 97.2 (16th in NBA)
Points allowed: 102.0 (26th)
Coach: Mike Woodson
(third season with the Hawks)
[This articlecontains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]
BENCH 2005--06 STATS
SHELDEN WILLIAMS * (R)
LORENZEN WRIGHT *
(R) ROOKIE (COLLEGE STATISTICS)
An opposing team's scout sizes up the Hawks
They finally havea true point guard in Speedy Claxton. This is a young team that needs someoneto get people in the right positions and get them going. Speedy is a scoringpoint first--when he drives into the paint he's looking for his own shot--buthe can do all of the other things that help his teammates, and you have togame-plan against him.... I like Josh Smith but have a lot of doubts about JoshChildress. I just don't see how he's ever going to make it with that shot, therelease point is so low.... Zaza Pachulia was a nice surprise. He has a littlescoring ability in the post and can run the floor reasonably well. Defensivelyhe's not very good, but he showed that he's a big guy who can play, and that'ssomething every team is looking for.... Everyone knew Marvin Williams was raw,but he turned out to be an average NBA athlete with below-average skills. Ican't figure out what they saw in him to warrant drafting him No. 2 [in 2005].He looks like he'll have to develop a face-up game or some kind of skill sothat he can take bigger guys off the dribble as a power forward.
Joe Johnsonranked third in the league in minutes played last season, with 3,340, andpassed Bob Pettit (who had 3,296 in 1963--64) to set the Hawks' single-seasonmark.
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