Examining Ish Smith's Impact on the Philadelphia 76ers
By now, you know the name Ish Smith.
It may have taken five seasons, stints with nine different NBA teams, and a trip to the D-League, but the undrafted point guard has made sure that even the casual NBA fans recognize his name.
Smith has flashed enough potential over the years to draw continual interest from other teams, but his inconsistency has prevented any team from truly handing him the reins to the offense.
Until now, that is.
The Philadelphia 76ers had a chance to see what Smith could do in his stint with them last year, and after watching him tear it up for New Orleans in the early stages of this season, they realized what a mistake it was to let him go in the offseason. Philadelphia traded two second-round picks for the explosive point guard, and through 12 games, he has had more of an impact than the 76ers could have possibly expected.
Impact of Ish
Smith has looked like an elite guard in his limited time with Philly, putting up averages of 16.8 points, 8.3 assists, 3.6 rebounds, and 1.6 steals. He’s been able to pile up counting stats due to his insanely high Usage Rate of 30.1%. That number may seem unsustainably high, but he owned a 26.5% Usage Rate in his 25 games with Philly last season.
While Smith put up impressive per 36 numbers last year for Philly (16 points, 8 assists, 4 rebounds, 1.7 steals), he’s been even more impressive in his second time around. His advanced metrics point to impressive efficiency from Smith in his 12 games for Philly -- even with the high Usage Rate. He has posted a career-high 17.6 PER (Player Efficiency Rating) and 51.1% Assist Percentage (which would be tops in the NBA if it qualified).
Smith has thrived as an individual in his time in Philadelphia, but what has been most impressive is his impact on his team. Prior to the acquisition of Smith, Philadelphia was 1-30 with a -13.26 point differential.
With Smith in the lineup, Philadelphia has a record of 4-8 and a point differential of -4.83. They’ve also averaged 106.67 points per game, as opposed to 91.35 without Smith.
They have markedly improved their assist/turnover ratio as well, from 18.8:17.8 to 24.3:16.0, which is a clear indicator that their new point guard is responsible for their improved play.
Per NBAWowy.com, the Sixers play at a faster pace, score more points per possession, shoot a higher percentage from the field and three-point line, and have a higher percent of shots assisted on when Smith is on the court than when he isn’t.
They also shoot more high percentage shots (dunks and layups) with Smith. The offense clearly runs more fluidly with Smith at the helm.
While the addition of Smith has boosted the efficiency of Philadelphia as a whole, it has been especially beneficial for big men Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Here are their splits with Smith on the floor and without, per NBAWowy.
An easy way to prove that Smith is the reason for both big men’s improved efficiency is the percentage of their shots that have been assisted on. Noel has been assisted on only 55.6% of his shots without Smith on the court, as opposed to 75% with him. Okafor has been assisted on only 36.0% of his shots without Smith, as opposed to 58.8% with him.
Before Smith came to town, many in Philadelphia had given up on Noel and Okafor being able to play cohesively together. While both players still perform better when they don’t have to share the court with the other, Smith’s excellent play-making ability has allowed the two posts to occupy the court simultaneously.
Noel shot 44.7% from the field and had a Points per Possession mark of 0.80 while playing alongside Okafor before Smith joined the team. Okafor shot 44.9% and owned a 0.98 Points per Possession mark.
When the three share the floor, Noel has shot 55.6% and posted a 0.98 Points per Possession mark; Okafor has sustained a 66.7% field goal percentage and an outstanding 1.32 Points per Possession score.
Whether you play season long fantasy basketball, NBA DFS, or are just an NBA fan, it’s hard to not be happy that Philadelphia is giving Ish Smith big minutes. He’s one of the most electric point guards in the NBA and his unselfishness has made Philadelphia a much more entertaining team to watch.
Going forward, our projections like Smith as a top-40 guard and a top-15 pure point guard for fantasy purposes.
He also makes for an appealing DFS play when he has a good matchup and/or plays in a fast-paced game.
Noel and Okafor are more difficult to predict from game to game due to their redundant style of play, making them more of tournament dart throws than reliable cash game options in DFS. Smith’s presence has clearly boosted the value of both though.
I would view Noel, given his upside, as a top-12 power forward, which is higher than our projections rank him, and Okafor a top-15 center for season long leagues, also significantly higher than how our numbers see him. If Smith's minutes prove to be constant, their upside could be realized.
Let’s hope that Philadelphia has wised up and will hold onto Ish Smith this time around, because it’s hard to overstate the “Impact of Ish.”