Ending up the dog days of summer, DBB is rolling out a series of players that our writers are optimistic about this coming season - even perhaps irrationally optimistic.
Thinking about Andre Drummond making three pointers is fun.
Thinking about Ish Smith making three pointers is practical.
Most fans have spent their summer watching videos of the Pistons’ star center hoisting three pointers on Instagram, but I’m more excited about the possibility of Smith coming to training camp as a passable threat from downtown.
We all know the beauty of Ish Smith, Backup. He’s a blur with the ball and has a knack for finding his way into the paint. That leads to good things. We also know the horror of Ish Smith, Starter. He’s still a blur with the ball, but speed isn’t enough against starting talent.
Opposing teams pack the paint and help off Smith because they know he’s not going to make them pay. It’s a vicious cycle. Flawed players like Smith are sometimes better suited for a reserve role — there’s nothing wrong with that.
But it doesn’t mean they can’t improve.
Here’s a fun fact: Smith shot 41 percent from downtown after the NBA All-Star break.
He only played in 25 games — so, not a huge sample size — but 24 makes in 58 tries is a huge step forward for a career 30 percent three point shooter. We’ve seen it from big men in recent years, but the key to spacing the floor isn’t always about making the shots.
It’s about the intent.
Hell, we all watched old friend Aron Baynes pump faking at the three point line, sending defenders flying by him in the playoffs for the Celtics. Anything is possible, guys.
Smith’s three point attempts (2.3 per game) accounted for nearly 24 percent of his total field goals per game during the second half last season. He attempted just 43 triples in 58 games before the All-Star break, shooting a chilly 26 percent.
Obviously, the diminutive guard is at his best when he’s getting penetration, attacking the rim and passing out to his shooters. The Pistons’ offense and defense is better when Smith plays fewer minutes and comes off the bench. Both decline when he plays more as a starter.
If he’s starting this season, Reggie Jackson’s knee has again fallen off.
The ability to be an outside shooting threat — not allowing opposing defenses to sag off and clog the lane for Blake Griffin and Drummond — will go a long way toward diversifying a half-court offense that, many times, stagnated with Smith on the floor.
It would be great if everyone on the Pistons came back this season with an improved stroke from three point territory. That’s not going to happen but, based on what he showed in the latter half of last season, maybe Smith can do it.