Ish Smith’s 2017-18 season outlook

DETROIT, MI - JULY 26: Ish Smith
DETROIT, MI - JULY 26: Ish Smith /

In our series of season outlooks for the players on the 2017-18 Detroit Pistons roster, we’ll run through expectations for each. Next up is Ish Smith.

Ish Smith plays the role of backup point guard and secret weapon for the Detroit Pistons. While ostensibly he is Reggie Jackson‘s relief, he has a vital part to play. Even if Jackson remains healthy all season without setback from the knee tendinitis which derailed his 2016-17 season, his asthma and stamina are issues.

Reggie Jackson can’t play heavy minutes and at best probably tops out at 30 minutes per game. This means that even under the best case scenarios for Jackson, Smith can probably count on about 20 minutes per night. If things don’t go so well, Ish Smith can expect to play significantly more than that and possibly even start.

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Ish Smith has been a fascinating case for the Pistons thus far in his short time. While he is unquestionably one of the worst shooters in the NBA (with an effective field goal percentage of 45.8 percent last season, and his 47.7 percent true shooting rate is both dreadful and a career high), he’s a gifted playmaker with a skill for getting his guys in the right place and getting them the ball.

When Smith was on the floor, the Pistons had a positive net rating at +.6. When he was off, the Pistons were blown off the floor, getting outscored by 4.6 points per 100 possessions. While this does not mean that he was the best point guard on the roster (although last season Jackson was downright terrible), it does mean that he and his fellow reserves were able to feast upon opposing second units.

Smith also benefited from fantastic synergy with Tobias Harris, particularly in the pick-and-pop. The two had a net rating of +2.5 (and +5.5 after February 1st), but Smith had a -2.4 net rating without Harris (-2.9 after February 1st) on the season.

Considering Smith’s shortcomings as a shooter, it’s vital to surround him with shooters and players who will get out in transition at every possible opportunity. Last season that was Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Harris, Stanley Johnson and Aron Baynes. This season, KCP and Baynes are gone, leaving Smith’s best running mates (beyond Harris and Johnson) in flux.

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With Jackson going from the Detroit Pistons’ best player to their worst player in the course of an offseason, Smith provides some welcome stability in case he doesn’t return to form. If Jackson can’t return at full strength, Smith could capably start, but that requires the Pistons to play at a fast pace. Smith struggles in the half court given the lack of a reliable jump shot, but he can slice to death a defense backpedaling in transition .