Los Angeles Lakers: Evaluating Ish Smith as a free agent target

Breaking down Ish Smith as a free agent target for the Los Angeles Lakers and what his skill set may bring to the franchise.

The Los Angeles Lakers should continue to be quite active this offseason, even after the acquisition of Anthony Davis to kick off the action. With that being said, the Lakers will almost certainly try and create enough cap room to sign a star point guard such as Kemba Walker or even Kyrie Irving.

Issue with that is Kemba Walker has expressed his desire to stay in Charlotte and Kyrie Irving to Brooklyn looks like a strong possibility. So unless Los Angeles plans on bringing back D’Angelo Russell, the point guard market may turn to a veteran minimum guy, while LA then seeks out Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler.

Enter Ish Smith, although not a big name in the NBA world. Ish Smith has provided decent NBA minutes in recent years, and is still regarded as one of the fastest players in the league. Among the likes of Russell Westbrook, John Wall “when healthy” and De’Aaron Fox.

Ish Smith has bounced around the league, playing for 10 different teams in nine seasons in the NBA, but recently the last three years has found a nice home with the Detroit Pistons spot starting and backing up Reggie Jackson. He has averaged 9.8 points while shooting 45% from the field.

One thing he does lack is a consistent 3-point shot, he shoots 30.6% from 3-point land in his career, and has never looked to take many attempts. This is something LeBron James likes to have from his point guards, but it is bargain hunting for a reason. You won’t always find what you want but you can find guys who can help contribute.

Now let’s shift gears to what Ish Smith can bring to the Lakers. He is versatile enough to spot start but would be a good addition to the bench unit, although lacking a 3-point shot, he compensates by attacking the rim and collapsing defenses that can open up more floor space for shooters.

Smith also has been one of the few positives for the Detroit Pistons over this last three-year span. Each year he has finished with a positive net rating. No other Detroit Pistons player can have the same said about them, not even Reggie Jackson or Andre Drummond.

According to NBA.com advanced stats method, Ish Smith in 2016-17 finished with a 104.6 offensive rating and 103.7 defensive rating good for a +0.9, 2017-18 he finished with a 106 offensive rating and 105.3 defensive rating good for a +0.7 and this past season was his best with a 110.1 offensive rating and 107.3 defensive rating which was a +2.8. When looking at the Pistons as a whole that is a good reflection on what he has provided to the team.

Smith plays with a lot of grit that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet. He will constantly pick up his man all 93 feet of the court, seemingly wearing opposing point guards down. This plays a big factor late in games when guys fatigue, little things that do not show up on the stat sheet, but you see when you pop in game film. He plays above average defense at his position and his quick lateral movement allows him to not get caught off balance often.

The Lakers are putting themselves in position where they will need to bargain hunt on the free agency wire if they want to bring in another star. This will most certainly eat most of their available cap and they will have to start looking at guys who want to win now and will sacrifice money to do so.

It is very possible that Ish Smith gets a deal more than the vet minimum on the market, but he is a very intriguing option to come to LA if he is willing to accept the vet minimum. LA is in a tough position after the Anthony Davis deal but continuing to scour the market for low cost deals could prove very beneficial when it comes to depth.

The star duo of Anthony Davis and LeBron James is set, now it’s time for the Lakers to construct enough pieces around them to contend for a title. If they strike out on Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving, pursuing Ish Smith can allow them to start looking at Jimmy Butler and Kawhi Leonard with their open cap space.

Next: 3 Starters to target in free agency

The Lakers look to be heading towards a similar route the Miami Heat did when they signed LeBron. Low cost guys ready to win now and have experience. The West is a gauntlet but with the Warriors seemingly injured most of next year, now may be the best time for the Lakers to seize hold of title contender status with LeBron in the purple and gold. However, that will be determined by how they navigate the salary cap.

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