Thursday, January 28, 2010

THHB Special Commentary: Josh Smith and the All-Star Game

(Hi. I'm Jason Walker, founder and editor of The Human Highlight Blog. The following is a personal commentary and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the dozens that bring THHB to you daily.)

Now, I realize I may be jumping the gun here, but Yahoo! Sports is the proud news-breaker of the NBA All-Star Reserves.

On this precious list are the names of two Hawks:

Johnson, Joe

Horford, Al

That is all.

Left off the list is the player who may be most responsible for the step forward the team has taken this season---Josh Smith.

It was been well documented that Smith took his own step forward this season by showing the maturity in dropping his ill-conceived three point attempts and moving those forward to shots near the rim. ESPN's own Hoopinion has been tracking this all season long.

There may be no bigger barometer for this division leading team than Smith, and everyone who has witnessed this team this year knows Smith's ability to positively (and negatively) impact the team. Many who dared to forecast the list of reserves included Smith's name due to this impact and overall productivity.

So why then did Smith get left off the All-Star team?

One reason has to do with the puzzling roster requirements, which says that you have to name a "second team" along with two wild cards, which would eliminate a "who are the best seven players that aren't in the starting lineup here" decision making process.

Another is the fans voting in of Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett, one being a legacy pick (AI) and the other worthy on inclusion but had missed a decent part of the season to date (KG). Remove one or both of these guys and perhaps Smoove moves on in---certainly there are blogs for every team lamenting this for their most important "snub".

With the two reserve forward spots going to the uber-worthy Chris Bosh and long time vet Paul Pierce, it very may well have come down to Smith and another player of his ilk, Charlotte's Gerald Wallace.

Looking at the numbers between the two and you can see why they are compared to each other. Why then Wallace then over Smith, hypothetically?

One reason could be that Wallace's raw stats are better, more points per game, more rebounds per game, etc--a product of his (9) MPG advantage over Smith. Basketball has come some way in appreciating the finer aspects of the game rather than just looking at PPG, but not all the way, and if coaches were looking at Wallace's stats over Smith's, a difference of (3) PPG and (3) RPG might have tipped the scales for the Bobcats' first All-Star.

But that line of reasoning doesn't compute when you look at the selection of Horford over David Lee. Lee's advanced stats and raw stats are higher than Horford's, but so is his overall Usage Rate. Still, if raw numbers were what led to the selection of Wallace over Smith, why wouldn't Lee have been selected over Horford?

No, what I believe what ultimately led to Smith's exclusion this season, in addition to the smaller things already listed, was Smith's perpetual demeanor on the court and to his head coach.

On the court, Smith has a tendency to complain, complain, complain, and has already logged technical fouls at a rate that would compare him to Rasheed Wallace. Opposing coaches note this when their teams are up against the Hawks and they are the ones that cast the fateful ballots.

Also, Smith has engaged in some infamous battles with Coach Woodson and, despite whether things are good now, or overblown to begin with, those perceptions also linger. When you consider all other things equal, do you not vote for who you like better?

Smith has been petulant at times on the court---such behavior hasn't gotten him any favors on the court--and may have cost him some off the court as well.

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