POP Season Preview: How the Pistons Smallest Addition Could Have the Biggest Impact

It’s no secret that the Pistons bench struggled last year, particularly back up point guard, Steve Blake. It’s hard to blame Blake, he is just at the end of his career and didn’t have much left in the tank. He’s lost so much athletically he just couldn’t drive the ball or defend like he used to. As a result, this was a top priority for the Pistons to address in the offseason. Their target was Ish Smith.

Last year Smith was starting for an awful 76ers team. Despite the lack of talent on that team, Ish still showed that he belongs in this league and that he can play with just about anyone. Adding his skill set to the Pistons bench is a huge upgrade over what Blake brought to the table last year. Here’s why.

Smith averaged 12.6 points, 6.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game last year in 29 minutes of action per night. These were well above his career averages, working mostly as a back up since coming into the league. Over his career he averages 5.8 points, 3.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 0.7 steals per game while playing just over 16 minutes per game. These are much closer to the numbers you can expect from Smith in Detroit.

What that means on the floor is the Smith is very well rounded. He does most everything well and doesn’t have a glaring weakness to his game. What Pistons fans will probably love most about him is that he’s as far away from Steve Blake as you can get. Smith thrives when driving the ball. From there he can score in the paint or kick the ball out to an open shooter. This is Smith’s calling card offensively. You can also expect him to play solid defense, which is not something Pistons fans are used to from their PG’s. Smith’s strengths are essentially all of what Blake’s weaknesses were.

However, that’s not to say that Smith doesn’t have weaknesses of his own. Notably, he isn’t a great shooter. He’s a 40% career shooter from the floor, which doesn’t really impress me considering that most of his shots come from pretty close to the hoop. When it comes from shooting from the perimeter, Ish is just under 30% from his career (although he did shoot 33% from deep last season). This makes Smith somewhat limited as a scorer. He can’t even rely from consistent points at the free throw line, as he is only a 64% career shooter from the charity stripe.

Ish has a key role to play for the Pistons this season. He will be the guy who makes the offense go when Reggie Jackson is on the bench. And while Smith is far from a perfect player, he is a major upgrade over what they had last year. Smith’s ability to drive the ball, distribute and defense will be critical to preventing long scoring droughts that cause the Pistons to fall into big holes. Ish Smith may not be a big name or a flashy guy, but he will keep Jackson fresh for the playoffs and help his team win games throughout the year.

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