Throughout his eight year career, Josh Smith has become known for his insane dunks, blocks, and questionable decision making. Year in and year out, Smith is on the brink of making it to the All-Star game but gets snubbed due to lack of votes from the fans and not being voted in by NBA teams. How can a player with no All-Star selections make a leap to MVP candidacy?
Each season, Smith has been making steady improvements on his all around game. The 2011-2012 campaign was his best, yet he still was not recognized as an all-star or an All-NBA talent. He averaged 18.8 points, 9.6 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.7 blocks, and 1.4 steals. In short, the man is a stat-stuffer. Kevin Love, on a subpar team, was considered an MVP candidate for a period of time two seasons ago. He scored more and averaged more rebounds, but his all-around game is not at Smith's level. Yet, Smith, who is a key component in making Atlanta a playoff contending team each season, gets nothing.
Last year, Al Horford was hurt and Jeff Teague was getting his first taste of the starting lineup. In that time, Smith developed himself as a leader, which will be huge for the Hawks this season. With Joe Johnson gone, he will be the go to guy. He matured and his decision making improved greatly. With a completely different roster this year, (half of the team was on the Nets roster last season), his maturity and leadership will determine the success of the team.
The 2012-2013 season will be the biggest of Smith's career. He is going to be the number one guy for the first time and his contract expires after this season. NBA teams will be watching him more closely to see how he performs. If he does well, he will get a nice contract offering from teams, including the Hawks. Also, what will come with that is he will finally be receiving attention he deserves. With more focus on him, NBA teams may finally select him for his first All-Star game and All-NBA team. If Smith falters, he will continue to get disrespect and there may be issues within the organization.
Depending on how Josh Smith does individually and where he leads the Hawks this year will determine what kind of recognition he receives. He may finally get the respect he deserves and some MVP chatter along the way.