The Detroit Pistons have filled their backup point guard vacancy with the impending signing of Ish Smith to a three-year deal.
Everyone knows I was on the Matthew Dellavedova boat. I was the skipper, chef, first mate and prisoner all tied up in one bundle. But now that news has come out that the Pistons have signed Smith, I'm going to attempt to walk everyone through what his strengths are and how he can make the Pistons better.
The first thing that comes to mind when you watch Smith play is his incredible speed with the basketball. But not only is he quick with the ball, but his units played quick. Let's look at some of the statistics, courtesy of NBA.com, as to the pace of Ish Smith's play.
|Player||MPG||Avg. Speed on Offense (mph)||Pace|
This serves as proof that Smith will bring a jolt of energy and speed to the Pistons bench unit, which was lacking last season. Everyone knew Reggie played slower, and while it was annoying, it generally fared OK. But the noticeable drop off to Steve Blake was suicidal, which is why Jennings looked so good those few weeks he played before getting traded.
Smith uses up almost 3 more possessions per game than Jackson, and he plays a much faster brand of basketball on offense. In terms of speed, Smith is tied for 3rd in the league in average speed on offense per game, while Jackson was well down the list (page 6 out of 10 on NBA.com).
Speed burns, and with a bevy of shooters on the bench unit, Smith will dash the court and find them for open looks in transition.
Take his stats in Philadelphia with a pinch of salt, but Smith was a very effective playmaker for a struggling 76ers squad last season. Smith played 77 games last season, 50 of those with Philly, and he racked up 7.0 assists per game for Brett Brown's team. He averaged 6.5 over the whole season thanks to a still-healthy 5.7 assists per game in 27 games for New Orleans.
What helps even further is that, over the course of the season, Smith only coughed up the ball 2.3 times per game, very efficient for someone playing 29.1 minutes per game. And it's not like he wasn't a dominant force on offense. Smith had a usage rate of 23.9 percent last season, yet a small turnover percentage of 14.4 percentage. For comparison, Jackson, who played about 1.6 more minutes per game, averaged 6.2 assists per game, and a turnover rate of 13.8 percent (with a high usage at 29.1 percent).
Smith also had a high assist rate of 38.3 percent compared to 36.3 percent for Jackson. Smith can be counted on to effectively lead an offense, and considering what he had around him in Philly, he shouldn't feel too out of place on the Detroit bench.
If there's one thing above all else here, Smith knows how to score the basketball. He averaged 12.6 points per game over the course of last season, and he has a strong proficiency and tendency to take the ball inside and finish at the hoop.
Despite his small stature, Smith was one of only 19 guards in the NBA to take at least 4.5 shots in the restricted area last season. He also had the fourth most drives per game in the NBA with more than 10 per game, and of players with at least 10 drives per game had the highest assist percentage. His issue is converting, as he only hit 53 percent of his attempts in the restricted area. Still, it's not hard to imagine what he can do with better offensive talent surrounding him.
He also has the endorsement of current Piston and former teammate in Phoenix, Marcus Morris (via Rod Beard at the Detroit News).
"I love Ish Smith from Philly. That's my guy. I played with him in Phoenix and he might be the best backup point guard in the league, in my opinion," said Morris, who watched the Pistons' summer league team in Orlando. "If we could get him, he could make our team a lot better on and off the court. He's a great teammate."
All in all, while you probably shouldn't feel exceptionally excited at the signing of Ish Smith, there's a lot to like, and perhaps it's a good thing Stan Van Bower did not get suckered into paying the big bucks (presumably) for a bigger name.
Not satisfied at all? Don't worry, there'll be a counterargument on why Smith is a terrible signing where you can vent your frustrations there. Let's keep this thread sunshine and lollipops, ok? Great.
UPDATE: Here's the counterpoint.