2016/2017 Season Recap/Notes: Ish Smith.
This is the 7th season recap, the starters and Jon Leuer have all been done.
The best thing, and this is on a similar note if not quite the same as Leuer, but is that Ish Smith is fully capable of being a rock solid backup point guard in the NBA. Smith has a longer track record than Leuer did, but most of his success came with the 76ers and the reality is that it isn't hard to look better than you are when you play for such a bad team. So there was at least some amount of worry that when playing major minutes for a team that was actually trying to win games he would struggle, and that was not at all the case.
The driving force behind his effectiveness was the way he took care of the ball. His assist to turnover ratio of 3.73 was one of the best marks in the league, and is not far behind Chris Paul. Simply put, Ish knows how to pass the ball. He often made best of it when on the fast break, which is unquestionably where he is at his best. His speed with the ball in his hands in pretty remarkable and is trying to get out onto the break at every opportunity.
The last thing that was a very pleasant surprise was his defense, and something that I guess I kind of dropped the ball on before the season. I remember in my season preview for Ish saying that he wasn't terrible but not much good either, and while he isn't Gary Payton or anything, he was quite solid on the defensive end. He plays defense with the same frenzied speed that he does on offense, and while that does often result in him being out of position, it also results in some nice plays as well. Obviously his size is something that will always be an issue defensively, but when he ended up against bigger guys he would dig deep and at least try to make their lives difficult. My favorite thing from Ish on defense though, has to be his blocks. Ish averaged .4 blocks per game, which doesn't seem all that impressive, but among players standing less than 6'4, he was 4th in the NBA in blocks per game. Just the idea of this tiny water bug guy coming out of no where to block the hell out of someone was one of the nice little joys of watching the Pistons this year.
Lastly, is that it just has to be said, Ish was fun to watch this year. The Pistons had a lot of problems and were not always fun to watch, (and part of that is because Ish can't shoot but we will get to that in a moment) but Ish blazing out into the open court off of made free throws was always entertaining, and despite his inefficiencies scoring the ball, he would occasionally have games where suddenly he was hitting the wide open jumpers opposing teams would give him, and suddenly the Pistons would be damn near unstoppable. In the end, I want my basketball to be fun, and Ish was definitely fun.
The shooting, and scoring in general. Ish did put up a career best in TS% with a 47.7% mark, but that is still very much not good. Guys who are below 50% are generally either young dudes who are not supposed to be good yet, (Stanley Johnson, Brandon Ingram) or defensive specialists. (Tony Allen, Andre Roberson) And the reality is that it was a problem for the Pistons. It isn't really Ish's fault, because he wasn't signed on to play as many minutes as he ended up playing, and the Pistons knew coming in that he was a bad scorer, but the fact remains, the Pistons were already on the tipping point of not having enough shooting, and when Ish was on the floor they went over that point and no longer had a functional half court offense.
The reality is though, that other than his inability to put the ball in the hoop, there is not a lot bad to say about Ish. Defensively he is a bit too wild but he was better than I thought he would be, his passing was brilliant, he played hard, and even his bad scoring was better than expected. The problem was more of a team problem than an Ish problem, any team looking to Ish as a late game solution has problems which Ish can't control. As long as the Pistons have a proper starting point guard next year (whether it is a healthy Reggie Jackson or someone else) I have full confidence in Ish Smith as a really good backup.
I said it right at the start, dude can play. He was put into a bigger role than he should be in, but he still performed better than expected. And he is still young enough that there isn't much worry about him falling off on his current contract.
I don't think there really are any questions with Ish. The Pistons pretty much knew what they were getting in him, and that is what he was but even better. I guess the only question with him will probably be whether or not they keep him for his entire contract. Obviously they won't be looking to move him, but he is on a very cheap contract and there are likely to be plenty of contenders that would love to have him, so if, for instance, the Pistons ended up with a point guard in the draft that they really liked or something like that, they could move Ish very easily. But once again, they would only move Ish if there were teams calling them, the Pistons are not likely to be making many calls to other teams about him.
What do you think? Was Ish fun this year? Could you build a functional half court offense with Ish as the point guard?