Ish Smith Tapering Off Proves He’s Not PG of Future

Feb 28, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ish Smith (1) reacts against the Orlando Magic during second half at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 130-116. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 28, 2016; Orlando, FL, USA; Philadelphia 76ers guard Ish Smith (1) reacts against the Orlando Magic during second half at Amway Center. Orlando Magic defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 130-116. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports /

Ish Smith has tapered off since having a huge start with the Philadelphia 76ers this season. That may be proof enough for the front office to go with someone else at the point guard spot.

Ish Smith was once called the “savior” of this Philadelphia 76ers team. He was traded for in late December and brought on to the Sixers, and he took them from being an awful team that could be considered one of the worst NBA teams of all-time to being simply a regular-bad team. Was he the savior? Not exactly, but that’s what it felt like for a few good weeks.

Smith, since having a really good start with the Sixers this year has tapered off a bit, and that may be proof enough for Jerry Colangelo and Sam Hinkie to explore other options at the point guard slot.

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For the first month of his time as a Sixer this season, Smith averaged 16.5 points, 8.5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game. Throughout these 13 games, the Sixers were led by Smith to a 5-8 record, a much better winning percentage than any other stretch of games so far this season.

Over the next 10 games that Ish appeared in (he missed one game), Smith’s statistical impact went down a bit, averaging 12.1 points, 6.5 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. The Sixers won 2 games in this stretch, but Ish only appeared in one of those games.

And lastly, over the 9 most recent games, Smith has averaged 17.1 points, 6.0 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. The Sixers have been 0-9 in this stretch, and have now dropped 13 straight after a recent loss to the Houston Rockets.

Not only do these stats show a serious downward trend in some spots for Ish, but they also show that when Ish is not in a really great playing mode, the Sixers do not win. The Sixers are 2-16 in their last 18 games, whereas they were 5-8 in that first outburst of Ish that we saw in January.

I’m not denying that Ish is good. Even the numbers that I am using to say he was on a slump are better than any other option the Sixers have seen at the point guard spot this year. He is the only option available for the Sixers at the moment that can score but also move the ball to his teammates as well. Smith is a solid player, but I don’t know if he’s a good player to use as a foundation piece for a team that’s trying to build themselves into a contender.

The Sixers have to be evaluating each and every player this offseason and deciding what their role will be as the rebuild takes a turn from being an all-out tank for better draft picks, to an actual aim to start winning games and developing a roster that fits together. When they look at Smith, they’re going to see that he improved this team, but they should also consider that Ish is replaceable.

The Sixers clearly already know this. At the trade deadline, the Sixers were rumored to be inquiring about Atlanta Hawks’ guards Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder, both of whom put up similar or better numbers per 36 minutes when compared to Smith. I’d be much more comfortable building a franchise around one of those guys than I would with Smith.

At the same time, they can’t rest their season on another point guard unless they are extremely confident that they can match or out-do what Smith can. They thought they had a way out of Ish this season with Tony Wroten or Kendall Marshall, but neither of them lived up to the expectations, and the Sixers found themselves giving up draft picks in a trade for a player (Smith) that they could have simply re-signed at the beginning of the season. They don’t want to relive that needing a real point guard and having to trade for one, especially not next season, when the hope is that they’re finally on their way to being competitive.

I’m not sure what it is about a guy who has played on nearly 10 different teams, but I don’t get the greatest vibe of consistency there either. It hasn’t always been Smith’s fault that he’s been the subject of trades and different transactions, but he’s definitely not used to having a secure job at the end of every season. Smith is more of a pick-me-up player that can help a team in need, and then can be on his way to his next location after he’s done his job. He’s not the type of guy you look at and think, “he’s our guy for 5 to 6 more years, at least.”

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One thing I know — I don’t want my team being dependent on a point guard like they have been on Ish. Yes, he’s could still be a solid component if the Sixers had some more talent to place around him, but they have never been good when he hasn’t been great. The pressure on Ish to carry this team is large, and it’s shown over time that he can’t handle all the pressure all the time. It’s not that we should have expected him to, it’s that there are better options out there for Philly in the backcourt.

Smith isn’t the point guard of the future, and Hinkie and Colangelo need to look to trades and free agency to fulfill their need for a point guard.