One of the best annual traditions of the NBA season is the release of Zach Lowe’s Luke Walton All-Stars column.
In this space, a spot on the team and an abundance of praise isn’t visited upon the stars of the game, but those essentially role players who never get the credit they deserve.
As Lowe wrote last year:
Not everyone can be a star. A Walton is a shape-shifter who tailors his game to fit the context of a particular team, and revels in the grunt work. He makes everyone's life easier.
Lowe just released his latest Luke Walton All-Stars column, and to my delight and surprise, Ish Smith made the starting squad as the Luke Walton All-Star point guard.
Here is what Lowe had to say about the Pistons’ backup point guard:
The Ish that saved Detroit. (Sorry.) On his 10th team in seven years, Smith has found a home. Detroit has been worlds better on both ends with Smith in Reggie Jackson's place. The ball zips to the right places, at the right times. Smith has seized a ton of crunch-time minutes, and Stan Van Gundy even discussed starting him. (Jackson neutered that discussion with his crunch-time pick-and-roll evisceration of Chicago on Monday.)
Opponents go under almost every pick, daring Smith to shoot and staying attached to the other Pistons. Detroit muddles through. Smith has hit 41 percent of his long 2s, a career best. You can't build a functional offense atop that shot, but in the 40 percent area, it's a workable option at the end of the shot clock -- and when defenses give Smith enough time to measure the wind.
He outraces defenders to the spot under the pick, and gets deep into the paint for floaters and kickouts. He'll fake toward a screener, get his guy leaning that way, and zoom toward the rim.
There is more at the link, and I encourage everyone to bask in the greatness of all the well-deserving honorees. If you’re the kind of NBA fan who believes Luc Richard Mbah a Moute doesn’t get nearly the credit he deserves then this column is definitely for you.