Ish Smith was a journey man by every definition of the word before this season. He bounced around from team to team whether it was by trade or by 10 day contract, and everything in between. Smith has played for a total of nine NBA teams including Phoenix, Orlando, Philadelphia, Oklahoma City, Houston, New Orleans, Milwaukee, Memphis, and Golden State. Smith’s current team, the Philadelphia 76ers, Smith is on his second stint there.
Smith was horrible as a teammate before this season. As shown by his on/off per 100 possessions. Smith was a lesser quality floor general, and his teams were much better without Smith on the floor. This year, however, is a whole different story. His teams are 7.3 points per 100 possessions better with Smith on the court. This is evident in the 76ers record as well, as they were 1-30 before acquiring Smith, and have gone a much better 3-6 after.
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His traditional statistics scream improved as well. Just about every statistic is up for Smith in 2015-2016, especially on the 76ers. His playing time went from limited and inconsistent to abundant and consistent. Smith, on the 76ers, is playing double the minutes he played in his previous career high season. His three point percentage went from one of the worst in the NBA to an elite 50%. Smith has never shot free throws better than the 80.8% he is currently shooting.
Most impressive though is his 16.2 points, 7.8 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game. Those are elite numbers, even if it is only with one team. The only other players to put at least 16.2 points, 7.8 assists, and 3.3 rebounds per game are Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, and John Wall. Some elite company indeed.
Smith might not have the winning percentage those three guards have, but Smith doesn’t have the talent around him that they do. The 76ers, again, were 1-30 without Smith and have had a much better 3-6 record with Smith.
Smith also has it going for him that this is a year without a clear cut candidate for most improved. Some selections include C.J. McCollum, but he was doing the same thing he is doing in this season as in the playoffs last season. Will Barton is the same way, except he was playing this way last season when he was traded to Denver. Stephen Curry’s case for most improved while present, will not be considered, as he already won the MVP award last season.
If Smith can keep Philadelphia winning at a somewhat respectable rate, there is no reason Smith should not win the most improved award.