Atlanta Hawks Won't Miss Josh Smith Until He's Gone

Peter Emerick@@peteremerickSenior Writer IIMarch 19, 2013

Mar 9, 2013; Atlanta, GA, USA; Atlanta Hawks small forward Josh Smith (5) reacts during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets at Philips Arena. Brooklyn won 93-80. Mandatory Credit: Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports
Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Smith is the best and worst player to have on your team.

While he's not on the "shoot-first, pass never" level of J.R. Smith, he certainly isn't the superstar player the Atlanta Hawks want him to be.

Smith will be an unrestricted free agent once the season ends, and with the Hawks failing to trade him this season or sign him to a max deal, it's rather obvious that Smith is going to test the free agency waters this offseason.

While it's good news that the Hawks could be free of Smith's $13.2 million, Atlanta will be wishing they had Smith instead of that money if the next season starts without him.

Hawks fans know that Smith can be absolutely infuriating when he's jacking up questionable perimeter shots or failing to utilize his athletic advantage in the fast break.

At times, Smith is lazy and lacks an overarching sense of maturity in his game. But it's the highlight-reel moments that give fans a glimmer of hope that maybe one day Smith will be the player he has the potential to be.

Smith is having the third-most productive season of his nine-year career, with 17.2 points per game on 46.1 percent shooting from the floor.

What doesn't show up on the stat sheets, though, is the way Smith opens up the floor for his teammates.

Even when Smith isn't knocking down perimeter jumpers, opposing defenses can't afford to bring help-side defense off of him, and in turn that opens up the paint for his teammates.

When Smith is aggressive and disciplined, he is easily a top-5 power forward in the NBA, because his athleticism is second to none.

How many 6'9'', 225-pound power forwards are there in the NBA that can finish strong or with finesse at the rim, while also being able to hit 20-foot jumpers with ease?

There aren't many, and that's what makes Smith such a special talent. 

If the Hawks let him walk this offseason, they won't simply miss his offensive production. More importantly, they are going to miss his tenacity and opportunistic abilities on the defensive side of the ball.

One of Smith's greatest assets is his ability to block and contest shots, and that's a major reason why teams struggle to score against the Hawks in the paint.

Opponents always have to be weary of Smith's lengthy frame flying into the paint and swatting their shots into oblivion, and that alters the way teams approach and attack the Hawks.

That will all change if Smith isn't wearing a No. 5 Hawks jersey next season. 

"You don't know what you've got until it's gone" is going to be the theme for the Hawks next season, because while Josh Smith is infuriating at times, he's also rather irreplaceable. 

That's why the Hawks haven't traded him over the past few seasons, and it's why they are hoping that they can miraculously get him to stay in Atlanta for the rest of his career.