Joe Johnson or Josh Smith: Who Must the Atlanta Hawks Let Go?

Jamaal FosterCorrespondent IMay 27, 2009

ATLANTA - MAY 03:  Josh Smith #5 of the Atlanta Hawks takes a moment and looks up with less than a minute to play against the Miami Heat during Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals at Philips Arena on May 3, 2009 in Atlanta, Georgia. The Hawks defeated the Heat 91-78. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Benc/Getty Images)

I can tell you the moment that all of you brainwashed followers began to think that Joe Johnson and Josh Smith couldn’t coexist. It was a gloomy afternoon, and the Hawks had just been swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers...

Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith spouted off some nonsense about the Hawks needing to decide if they want to build around Josh Smith or Joe Johnson, and you bought it. 

Brainwashing initiated and completed in less the 60 seconds. 

The icing on the cake was when a local writer, Jeff Schultz, wrote the article, “Hawks should consider trading Johnson, not Smith.”

In 24 hours, a ridiculous debate was born.

First of all, neither Joe nor Josh has a complete enough game to build around. 

Yes, I said it! Josh’s flaws are well documented, and if you need a reminder, call 790 “The Zone” or 680 “The Fan,” where they will be glad to spout off about on-ball defense, 20-foot jumpers, and the many boneheaded or lazy mistakes they’ve ever seen Josh make.

Joe Johnson’s problems are far less documented. Joe is as inconsistent as Atlanta weather. He’s an isolation ballplayer that can’t get to the basket. His game reminds me of Allan Houston after the microfracture surgery. He’s also rather slow for an off guard, and his only real talent is getting space for his own shot or hitting an open one.

I repeat, his only real talent is getting his own shot. He cannot dribble through or away from a double team, and when the double does come, Joe picks up the ball, and any offense that you were going to run is over.

However, the problem with the Atlanta Hawks is not the players—it’s the strategy. 

Joe is not a facilitator, so he should never dominate the ball offensively at any time, unless he has proven that he is on fire that night. On most nights the opponent does not have to double him, and they almost never have to worry about him getting to the tin.

As a result of improper use of the isolation with Joe Johnson, Josh Smith will start to hunger for the ball, resulting in poor shot selection and his dribbling up the court after a defensive rebound. 

Don’t get me wrong. Josh is actually one of the best open court passers that we have. 

Yes, I said it! Josh Smith is the best open court decision maker on our team. He makes consistently good decisions on the break—when he doesn’t dribble the ball on his own foot.

The key to the balancing act is at point guard. The Hawks need a point guard that can facilitate the offense and dictate who gets how many touches on the court and where they will receive those touches.

If I’m the point guard, Josh Smith does not touch the ball unless he is within 15 feet of the basket, period.

The solution for Hawks fans is to keep them both and stop listening to Knarles Charkley, especially if they agree (and never, ever listen to Schultz either).

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