Although Detroit has not fared well with Reggie Jackson out of the lineup the past few seasons, it is not because the player who filled Jackson’s void in the starting lineup, Ish Smith. In fact, Ish Smith has played the best basketball of his career in his past two seasons with Detroit. But behind Smith, Detroit has not had enough depth at the point guard spot.
This offseason, Detroit attempted to change that. They drafted Bruce Brown, and seem committed to developing him as a swiss army knife style point guard. They signed veteran Jose Calderon, who has valuable experience as a 13-year veteran and started 32 games last season with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
The hope, as head coach Dwane Casey has pointed out, is that Smith will be allowed to spearhead the second unit and not have to move into the starting lineup if Reggie Jackson were to go down again. Again, it is not because Smith cannot succeed with the starters, but he thrived with the second unit when Jackson was healthy, and using him in shorter bursts allows his effectiveness to be maximized. For comparison sake, Smith possessed a -1.6 net rating when he started last season, while he was a +2.1 in 47 appearances off the bench.
Last season, Smith averaged 10.9 points and 4.4 assists in 24.9 minutes per game. He was actually pretty efficient while hoisting the second most shot attempts per game of his career. He shot 48.6 percent from the field and even knocked down 34.7 percent of his 3-point shot attempts, an area of his game that has certainly held him back. He is no marksmen from deep by any means, but his improvement is noted, and it will be intriguing to see if he can continue to shoot that well from beyond the arc when he has not shot that well from outside for a whole season in his eight-year career.
He does a good job moving the ball and does so without turning the ball over. He averaged just 1.3 turnovers per game last season, a testament to that. He may be the best distributor on the team, although Jackson and now Blake Griffin could contend that title.
In reality, there is a lot to like about Ish Smith. He is efficient, smart, and plays with a level of flare and energy that can be really exciting.
And that flare travels to the defensive end, even with Smith’s limitations at a generously listed 6’0″.
While he won’t best you behind the arc, he has a unique ability to hit mid-range jumpers, a talent that may be featured less this season with the style of play Casey wants Detroit to play with.
Smith, 30, is entering the final year of a three-year deal he signed with Detroit in 2016. He is making $6 million annually, a bargain price for what he has done so far with the Pistons. With Jackson’s injury tendencies as a concern, Smith is set to continue with a large role on the team, even if he comes off the bench.
Featured Image: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports