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NBA free agency: Why Ish Smith is not the right fit for Pistons

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How much improvement is the small guard really over Steve Blake?

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports

You may not have seen it, but there was a positive spin article on the signing of Ish Smith which went up a little earlier. However, being the good imitation journalist that I am, I feel obligated to write an article detailing all the shortfalls (lol short jokes) of the Pistons' soon-to-be new back up point guard.

So where do we begin? How about his size?

Size

Ish Smith is one of the smaller point guards on the open market. When you look at the likes of Matthew Dellavedova (6'4", 200lbs) and Jeremy Lin (6'3", 200lbs), Smith is a rather seedy and wiry 6'0" and 175lbs wringing wet. While he does have rather long arms, with a wingspan extending past 6'4", his small frame still mean his standing reach is a tiny 7'10".

His limitations in terms of physical stature make things a little tougher for him. He can't body up anyone and offers little to no resistance in terms of stopping the drive, especially with all the bigger point guards in the league today (hell, the Pistons just drafted a sometimes point guard who stands 6'7").

His limitations on size transition well into his next key weakness, and that's his defensive potential.

Defense

My criteria for a backup point guard this offseason was rather specific and possibly geared towards Matthew Dellavedova. I'll run through it quickly. Size, ability to hit the 3, defense, ability to play next to another PG. If we evaluate Ish Smith next to that criterion, he fits basically none of them. The defense is something I want to highlight though, because all season last year the Pistons were not offering much in the way of PG resistance.

The simple fact is that Ish Smith is just too small to be of any serious defensive impediment to an opposing point guard. His light frame mean that he will get bullied by the stronger guards in the league, and his short stature mean it isn't that hard to shoot over him. Opposition point guards can easily take him down in the post and have their way with him.

He may find it easier to defend the likes of D.J. Augustin (who has apparently signed with Orlando), but when it comes to backup PGs with even a semblance of size, he will struggle, and the defense will be forced to collapse. Again.

Shooting

Here lies perhaps the biggest problem with Ish Smith on a team like the Pistons. For a coach like Stan Van Gundy who has expressed his desire to have shooting at every orifice, the signing of Ish Smith makes little to no sense as a backup point guard where there were likely similar priced options who are far better shooters. Let's look at Smith's numbers over the course of his career.

Player % of FGA from 3 3P% FT%
Ish Smith 15.2% 29.8% 64.5%

So, yeah, not the greatest numbers from Smith here. While he does try to go inside more than settle for the three, the fact that he is such a bad shooter is still worrying. Perhaps Van Gundy feels his broken jumpshot can be mitigated by a bench unit of Bullock, Marcus Morris (when he plays with the reserves) and Aron Baynes, but that unit still has three guys who aren't much of a threat from three (Smith, Baynes, Stanley Johnson).

Three-point percentage can be somewhat fixed. He did shoot 34% over his time with Philly last season. A big worry, though, is the atrocious FT% for a point guard. To put it in perspective, Reggie Jackson upon arrival at the Pistons was a 29% three-point shooter, and people moaned about that, with good reason. He has upped that to about 35%, but a big help was the fact that he already was close to a 90% free throw shooter, so he had the foundations of a good shot. With Smith's poor free throw rate, I question his ability and the likelihood of the coaching staff to be able to convert him into a respectable shooter. His best three-point zone was above the break at 32% (he shot 63% on left corner threes, but I don't put much stock into a 5-for-8 sample size).

***

So yes, the concerns with Smith are very real. For a small point guard, it's always going to be difficult for him to defend anyone with any real effectiveness. Coupled with his disappointing shooting percentages, it could be a long year at back up point guard for the Pistons yet again.