When the 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks square off in Phillips Arena tonight, the Sixers organization and Philadunkia nation will have their second to last view of Hawks forward Josh Smith before he hits free agency. Ironically enough, the skill set that Smith possess which makes him an attractive free agent prospect for the Sixers makes him a dangerous opponent this evening.
While Spencer Hawes has been very productive as of late for head coach Doug Collins, defensively, he will likely be taken out of the game by Atlanta center Al Horford’s size and skill. With that in mind, Thad Young, Lavoy Allen and sometimes Arnett Moultrie will be left to cover the polarizing Smith.
Unfortunately for Collins, Smith is a mismatch for all three of those bigs.
This season, the College Park, Ga. native is averaging 17.4 points, 4.3 assists and 8.5 rebounds per game in his contract year. The 6-9, 225-pounder can body guys up on the block and be effective on the perimeter with a dribble-drive and jumper. Thad is listed at 6-8, 235 pounds, but when he stands next to Smith, the former Slam Dunk Contest champion looks like a man next to a boy. The Hawks forward will most likely look to take advantage of Thad on the block, and while the scrappy, undersized big will hold his own, Smith should be successful on a few occasions.
Next, Smith is far too laterally quick for both Lavoy or Moultrie on the perimeter. We all know how Lavoy runs the court like he’s trudging through quicksand, and the Hawks most likely know that through scouting. Moultrie can roll to the basketball and take the ball to the rim with authority while defending the post very well, but he most likely doesn’t have the foot speed to keep Smith outside of the paint on a drive from the high post or elbow extended.
Atlanta likes to run a lot of offensive sets that put Smith at the high post with Horford on the block — an offense many expected the Sixers would run with Hawes and Andrew “He Who Must Not Be Named”. What makes that offensive set so effective is that both Horford and Smith have the ability to produce down low and from 15-feet away from the hoop. That could wreck havoc against the 76ers.
With that in mind, while watching the Sixers take on the Hawks tonight, keep a close on Josh Smith and dream of how lethal a Smith and Andrew Bynum high-low combination could be in the Wells Fargo Center next season.
But, for now, the Sixers will most likely be victim to Smith’s offensive prowess and a likely 20-10 performance.