Ish Smith is expected to miss approximately six-eight weeks due to a quad injury. Let’s take a look at how his absence impacts the Washington Wizards moving forward.
Before securing their third win in a row, the Washington Wizards released some unfortunate news regarding their veteran backup point guard. Ish Smith, who suffered a quad injury in the loss to the New York Knicks on February 12, is expected to miss an extended period of time. Before things tipped off vs. the Denver Nuggets, the Washington Wizards announced that Ish will be out for almost two months after being diagnosed with a right proximal quadriceps injury.
This is another tough break for the 11-year vet. Last month, Ish was one of six Wizards players to miss time after being placed in health and safety protocols for contact tracing. He was never truly able to find his rhythm because he had already missed a quarter of the season due to injuries and COVID. Before it was announced that Ish would be out for almost two months, he was only averaging 5.2 points, 4.7 assists, and 3.5 rebounds while shooting 25.0 percent from three and 37.9 percent from the field overall.
Yes, he’s been playing fewer minutes this year (20.6 minutes compared to 26.3 minutes in 2019-2020) but his pace and defense are still vital to the success of Washington when he’s at his best. It’s another loss for a Wizards team that’s finally starting to get hot and string some wins together. They’re now 6-5 in their last 11 games after taking down a talented Denver Nuggets team on Wednesday night. The Wizards are currently 13th in the Eastern Conference and on the rise, but Ish being out until April is another minor setback.
What adjustments will the Washington Wizards make to replace Ish Smith’s production?
Can Washington replace Ish’s production from within their roster? Coach Scott Brooks has made a few questionable decisions this year so it’ll be interesting to see how he goes about allocating the extra minutes. The Wizards don’t really have much depth at backup point guard, so that means certain players will have to step up and be on the court more. Russell Westbrook, who’s coming off a season-high 39 minutes against the Nuggets, is the first player that comes to mind. He’ll most likely be willing to step up to the challenge but he’s finally starting to get healthy so you don’t want to burn him out.
With Ish already out, it’s extremely important for the Wizards to be cautious with Russ because he seems to be getting closer to 100 percent. He’s been sitting out the second half of back-to-backs all year, until just recently when he played against the Rockets after the Wizards beat the Celtics a night before. It was the 1st time all season he played in back-to-back games. Even though it was nice to see, I’m hoping this does not become a trend until maybe after the All-Star break. It’s great having Russ available to play but it’s even better when he’s healthy and not dealing with a nagging injury.
The remainder of Ish’s minutes will most likely be distributed to Raul Neto. He’s been a pleasant surprise for the Washington Wizards this year! He’s currently averaging a career-high 8.0 points with 2.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists in only 18.3 minutes of play. His ball-handling, ability to get to the basket, and solid 3-point shooting stroke (36.8 percent) have been invaluable for Washington this season. Neto has also started six games this year with Russ sitting out for injury management so he’s ready to accept an even bigger role.
The Wizards just need to be slightly careful with him as well because he dealt with a groin injury a few weeks ago that forced him to miss four games. Neto seems to be getting healthier now but Washington still shouldn’t risk it. Instead, coach Scott Brooks should look into potentially giving Troy Brown Jr. some more minutes. The Wizards chose to pick-up TBJ’s fourth-year option on December 28, 2020 but he’s been completely out of the rotation with 13 DNP’s this year. Ish Smith’s injury may be a blessing in disguise for him to finally get some minutes but he has to make the most out of them if he’s given an opportunity.