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Ish Smith expected to play vs. Jazz

Invaluable Pistons backup has been sidelined with torn muscle

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Ish Smith is expected to return to the Detroit Pistons lineup after missing 19 games with a torn abductor muscle suffered against the Milwaukee Bucks in early December.

It might seem strange to credit a backup with so much success, but there are few players as valuable to the Pistons as Smith. The light-shooting guard not only allows the Pistons to rest starter Reggie Jackson and not see a dip in play, but Smith was often finishing games at the point guard position with Jackson playing off the ball.

With Smith out of the lineup the Pistons were forced to rely on octogenarian (in our hearts, anyway) Jose Calderon. Needless to say, the Calderon era has not gone well for the Pistons. In the past 20 games, which includes the game where Ish was injured, the Pistons are 5-15 with only the Knicks and Cavs faring worse over that stretch.

Courtesy of our own Lazarus Jackson via one of the best DBB commenters, Crosseyed, Calderon’s “contribution” to the Pistons since Smith went down was perfectly captured:

In other words, playing alongside Calderon makes our good players bad and our mediocre players unplayable.

Boosting the team’s play from the point guard position could do wonders for the efficiency of our bench wings, and Dwane Casey could still play mix and match in late-game situations between Smith, Jackson, Bruce Brown, Luke Kennard and Reggie Bullock depending on what he is looking for on the floor.

The Pistons are 18-23 but sit just a half-game out of the playoffs in the absolutely dreadful Eastern Conference. With Smith back in the fold, the Pistons can go from a terrible team to mediocre, and with some continued development from players like Brown and Kennard, and improvement from Jackson and Johnson could turn a mediocre team into a good team.

So there is your dose of enthusiam for today. Ish Smith — franchise savior.