Washington Wizards are in good enough hands at point guard with Ish Smith

Washington Wizards Ish Smith (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Washington Wizards Ish Smith (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images) /

Ish Smith may be the last standing veteran point guard, but the Washington Wizards are in good hands to start the season.

With two point guards sidelined with injury, and various other players also starting training camp on the sidelines, questions are being raised about Washington’s roster depth.

But regarding the starting point guard, the team is in capable hands with Ish Smith. Here’s why, despite a couple of key injuries at the point guard position, things are far better than they may seem for the Wizards.


Smith has been one of the better stories in the league over the last few years.

After spending some time in the G-League, and then bouncing around between various NBA clubs for 20-30 game stints, he’s established himself backup point guard in the NBA. The Wizards will be his 11th different team since the 2010-2011 season.

But it’s been years since Smith was viewed as an NBA journeyman. Recently, he found a home in Detroit. Smith spent the last three seasons as the Pistons number two point guard.

He did a great job facilitating Detroit’s second unit as a phenomenal passer who often filled in for Reggie Jackson in the starting lineup. Despite playing in all 82 games last season, Jackson missed 67 games during Smith’s three year run in Detroit.

Smith’s journey across the NBA makes him a talent on the court and a leader in the locker room. For a young team on the cusp of a rebuild, the Wizards feature plenty of strong veteran voices including John Wall, Bradley Beal, and Isaiah Thomas.

In many ways, Washington is going to start out expectations as low as the ones surrounding Smith back in 2010. They’re a squad being held above water by Beal’s play, and now they’re banged up across all positions heading into training camp. No one’s expecting much.

But Smith’s resilience and experience make him one of the more natural fits for Washington in the short term.

On the Court

In the same sense that Smith is a valuable asset off the floor, his play on the floor may keep the Wizards’ season alive to start the year.

With Wall and Thomas sidelined, the offense will flow through Beal, who averaged a career-high 5.5 assists last season. But he can’t be on the floor at all times. Plus, he can contribute even more when playing off the ball or as the team’s primary scorer.

Beal can benefit from having another playmaker on the court. That’s where Smith comes in. Smith averaged 5.8 assists Per 36 minutes in his 56 games with Detroit last year.

Among players to not start a single game last season (of which there are just five per Basketball-Reference), Smith ranked number one among win shares at 1.7. Even behind the likes of starting point guard Jackson and star point-forward Blake Griffin, the veteran was a key component of the Pistons offense.

In games where he recorded five or more assists last year, the Pistons went 12-3. That’s no coincidence despite the small sample size. The higher the volume of touches Smith gets, the better the second unit flowed on offense.

A five-man lineup for Detroit featuring Smith, along with Luke Kennard, Langston Galloway, Blake Griffin, and Andre Drummond, was one of the best they had all year.

Per Basketball-Reference, that lineup was Detroit’s best lineup in terms of assists, and second-best in terms of scoring and field goal percentage. If nothing else, Smith can keep the ball moving and help to split the handling responsibilities with Beal, who offers so much more to the Wizards.

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Ish Smith contributed to the Detroit Pistons’ appearance in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season. This year, he’s got a chance to do the same with the Washington Wizards. And for now, fans can rest assured they’ve got a starting point guard that can trust.