Meet Ish Smith.
What's the deal?
The Pistons and Ish Smith have agreed to a 3 year deal. As of right now it appears that they are not set on exactly how much money per year he will be getting and it will somewhat depend on what else the Pistons can manage to land. However the estimates I've mostly seen is around 7 million per year, which would sound about right.
Who Is Ish Smith?
Ish Smith is a 6'0 ft. 28 year old point guard hailing from North Carolina. Like most NBA players he was super dope in high school and won all kinds of awards and whatnot. However he was not a particularly high recruit coming out of high school, and he attended Wake Forest University.
He played all 4 of his seasons of eligibility at Wake Forest. And had a very nice career there, finishing his career 2nd in school history in assists, and the only player 1,000 points and 6,000 assists in school history. In his senior year he averaged 13 points and 6 assists per game and received some all conference honors among others.
Smith was undrafted out of college, and quickly became the definition of an NBA journeyman. In his 6 seasons he has played on 9 teams, and has switched teams 10 times as he had 2 separate stints with the Sixers. HOWEVA, it should be noted, and a credit to Smith, that even though he has bounced around a ton, he has never been out of the NBA altogether. He has never had to play overseas, and has just one stint in the D-League in his career back in his rookie season.
Smith had a bit of a breakout with the Sixers 2 seasons ago, but they let him go and he was signed by the Pelicans, who then traded him back to the Sixers where he truly came into his own and had a really nice season while single handedly making the Sixers a lot less awful.
Ish Smith is fast. Like really fast. He is, by most accounts, literally the fastest player in the NBA, particularly with the ball in his hands. He is a speed demon in transition, and very difficult to stay in front of in the half court. He is quick, shifty, and has the handles to use it.
He is a really good passer and facilitator, he is excellent at using his speed and quickness to snake his way into the lane and whip smart passes all around the floor to teamamates. His whole career he has put up very solid assist/turnover ratios, and there is no reason to believe that will change.
Even though his scoring, and especially his shooting, are not all that good. He is aggressive enough, and willing enough to pull the trigger that he at least does a solid job of keeping defenses honest. Essentially, he is not like a Rajon Rondo type of shooter who shoots poorly and all the shots are WIDE open shots. Not to say Ish is a good shooter because he isn't, but he does at least keep defenses honest for the most part.
On defense Ish is undersized and so he has some trouble guarding bigger guys and is totally useless switching away from a PG, and also can have trouble fighting through picks. But he is not a total zero on defense, he runs more than any other player in basketball on both ends of the court, and he is relentless in his pursuit of his mark making him a real pest most of the time, and yields a decent amount of steals. Once again, he is not any sort of lockdown defender, but he does some good stuff on that end still.
Mostly the shooting. He has never been a good outside shooter, not even in college. And for a player as small as he is, his lack of shooting can be a hinderance to him at times. Once again, he usually is proficient enough to at least keep defenses kind of honest, and he is so quick that he can work his way through most issues that may come from teams sagging off him. But he is certainly not going to help spacing when he is on the floor.
Even though he does some good things, his defense is not all that good. And that is really the only thing I don't love about Ish, is that I feel like the bench mob might be in need of some more defense, and Ish will not fix that. He can generally hold his own, but he isn't going to do much to make your defense better in the grand scheme of things.
Combine the lack of shooting with the lack of size, and he does not have any real positional versatility. Theoretically the Pistons could still play him alongside Jackson for a kind of goofy lineup with lots of ball handling and creation on the floor, but it would not be an ideal fit really.
What will his role with the Pistons be?
He will be the backup PG. Which will mean about 18 minutes per game for him playing with the bench unit and also getting a little run with the starters since Reggie will probably still be the lowest minutes starter. (although that might change. He was kept at lower minutes due to his absurd offensive load, and he should have a little less next season.) As stated earlier, he does not have the positional versatility to really play SG, so while it is possible that SVG will experiment a bit with Ish and Jackson on the floor together (since Jackson does have that positional versatility) but it is not likely to be much of a thing. Smith will play the backup PG minutes, and not much more.
How will he fit?
Really well I think. There is still some potential for the roster to be shaken up some more, the Pistons are still going to try and get Al Horford, and even if they don't they figure to have over 10 million left in cap space. So it is a little bit shakey to make predictions on how he will fit on the team since we don't know for sure what the team will be, especially since the last piece they add will change the bench mob a lot. (Most likely will be a bench player, and if it is Horford or some other higher profile guy it would push Morris to the bench.) But oh well.
I think that the best way to descirbe Ish Smith's game to Pistons fans would have to be that he is like Brandon Jennings without the killer step back 3s/generally being a good outside shooter. And Ish is pretty close to what Jennings was in his time coming off the injury this past season. He will push the pace at every opportunity he can, and is pretty relentless in his efforts to snake into the paint and create some sort of breakdown. He is not a efficient scorer but can get some buckets, but mostly is using his scoring to allow him to make passes easier.
I really like the fit of him running PnRs with Aron Baynes since Baynes is a excellent screener and Smith doesn't need much of a step at all to get loose, and Smith is a very good passer in the PnR to find Baynes on his fanatical rim runs. That should be a really solid mix. Throw in Reggie Bullock and probably a PF who can shoot spotting up around the outside and there should be plenty of space for Smith to operate as well.
Smith will/should have the ball in his hands most of the time so figure for Stanley Johnson and Marcus Morris to not have as large of ball handling duties with the bench mob as they did before, but on the plus side, SVG can now play KCP with the bench mob and it will be ok because KCP doesn't have to try and be a ball handler.
Ish should also jell really well with Andre Drummond. He won't get a ton of minutes alongside him but he will get some, and Ish showed in his time with the Sixers and Nerlens Noel that he is a excellent lob passer who has pretty much mastered the art of getting exactly to the right spot to coax the opposing big away far enough to open an alley oop.
Simply put, Ish (like Jennings last year) just knows how to run an NBA offense. He knows how to get to the right spots to coax the defense into breakdowns, and he has really good vision to hit the right passes in the breakdowns. He has consistently actually made offenses better when he is on the floor, it just took a long time for people to really realize that Ish was a big reason of it instead of it being coincidence.
One other thing to mention, is that even though he doesn't give a lot of spacing due to his poor shooting, Smith is still solid off the ball. He is a smart cutter and absolutely abuses guys who closeout too hard on him. So even though Stanley/Morris/everyone else will have less ball handling duties, Smith will not hurt them too much when he is off the ball.
The last thing that will be fun, is that the theoretical bench mob of Ish, Bullock, Stanley, *insert PF here*, and Aron Baynes would be a really fun group that would run all the time and be really good at it. Even if they might struggle a bit on defense, at the very least it should be a lot of fun to watch.
This sounds really good. If he's so good why has he bounced around so much?
An excellent question. I think it is mostly because he falls into the sort of player that teams don't really believe in. Any guard who is as small as he is will have less of an opportunity to begin with (remember, Isaiah Thomas was the last pick in the draft) and since he is a bad shooter it really compounds the problem. The reality is, that if you are as small as Ish is, and you can't shoot. You are probably not an NBA caliber PG. However he is a great teammate (from everything I've seen at least) and he clearly can run an offense so he's managed to stay in the league, its just that until his time with the Sixers, people assumed that his numbers/the offensive improvements when he was on the floor just meant that he was capable of running an offense adequately, but when he landed with the Sixers, especially this past season, he showed that he actually does more than just adequately, he is really good at it. Essentially he is almost like a unicorn of a player, because players his size shouldn't be able to survive without being really good shooters, but his balancing factor is that he is literally the fastest dude in the NBA. He was undervalued because NBA teams don't generally give speed too much value (for good reason.).
Smith really is the floor general that he looked like with the Sixers, he leads a super fun bench mob that runs constantly and shoots lots of 3s and plays with tons of energy. While at the same time showing that the bench didn't really suck last year, it was just Steve Blake who sucked, and the Pistons bench mob marches on to death and glory.
Smith looked good because he is the first competent PG the Sixers have had in a few years, he's actually not much good and his shooting and defense are an issue. Also it looks like it wasn't just Steve Blake's fault for the bench being so bad and the bench remains an issue for the Pistons.
I LOVE this pickup. He was actually the top guy I wanted the Pistons to go for, I figured he would be the best mix of being good and also not costing too much. I wasn't really a fan of the Pistons trying to splurge on Lin or Delly. I think he will be great with the Pistons bench mob, and is a great locker room guy as well. And assuming the numbers given right now are correct, his contract should look really good.
What does this mean for the rest of free agency?
The Pistons have their backup PG, and with Gbinije and Brown playing in the summer league this weekend, they will not sign another PG. So all of the Pistons remaining space can go to the PF spot, and they can still fairly easily open up space to go after Horford (They would just have to move Baynes.) So assuming that Ish's contract isn't much larger than reported, they are still in the running for that, and can go ahead with all the same plans as before.
What do you think? How will Smith do? Do you like the deal? Let me know! We all get smarter!