HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We are still a week or two away from finalizing the ballot, but it is time to start considering the options available for the 15 spots on our All-NBA team.
Most of the slotted positions are obvious. We know who the best players at every positions, so filling up the first five is a breeze. The second five shouldn’t be much of a problem either, at most positions. And the third five, when you have to start splitting statistical hairs for one guy over another, is a task that won’t take all night to complete.
But there is at least one position that will require some serious debate and deliberation: how we rank the power forwards this season. The league’s marquee position when Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett and Dirk Nowitzki were all operating at their full powers, the position has been passed up for that top spot on the marquee in recent seasons by the point guards.
In fact, a new wave of young(er) power forwards should overtake the incumbents this season, led by All-Stars Kevin Love of the Timberwolves and Blake Griffin of the Clippers. The most glaring option for that third team power forward slot, however, belongs to a surprise entrant in this contest, a guy who has yet to reap the recognizable awards for all of his hard work this season.
Hawks power forward Josh Smith didn’t get the nod as an Eastern Conference reserve for the All-Star team, a slight the coaches who left him of of their ballots should be ridiculed for until they make up for such a transgression. But he might very well earn a spot among the league’s top 15 players on a list that carries just as much weight, if not more, here at the hideout.
Jason Walker of PeachtreeHoops.com makes the empirical case for Smith’s dark horse campaign for inclusion into this club of the NBA elite, using his work this season and not his reputation or recognition (or lack thereof) as the primary factors in the argument:
This is the season to put aside the eight season’s worth of what Josh Smith doesn’t do right on the court and stare right into the eyes of the things he does do right.
This is the season Josh Smith = All-NBA.
Why not? He’s produced better across the board than almost all of his positional contemporaries and has been the mainstay, the centerpiece of a potential Top 3 seed in the Eastern Conference.
You need more — you want stats — I get it — here are a few.
- 25 Double-doubles is good for fifth in the league this season.
- 5th in Defensive Rebounding rate, with 25% — only Kevin Love and Blake Griffin are better this season at power forward — [DeMarcus] Cousins and [Kevin] Garnett are playing a lot of center this season.
- #1 in Assist percentage with 20.6%. Among all forwards, only Paul Pierce and Hedo Turkoglu have higher rates, both small forwards.
- If you are looking for a player who has more than 70 steals and 70 blocked shots, there are only two: Smith and Dwight Howard.
- In fact, there are only three players who have a 20 PER, 20% Defensive Rebound Rate, 3% Block Rate and 2% Steal Rate: Smith, Howard, and Cousins
We didn’t need much convincing to include Smith on our extremely short list of candidates. But we’ve been aware of his exploits all season, particularly after Hawks All-Star center Al Horford went down with a regular season-ending injury (torn pectoral muscle) and Smith stepped in and stepped up to keep the Hawks in contention for one of those coveted top four spots in the standings.
He’s been in the final five on the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder since the first week of March and will remain in that mix until the final day of the season, he’s earned his way there.
Whether or not he’s earned his way into the Top 15 when it comes to All-NBA selections is another story, and more importantly in the hands of the voters …