Ish Smith's arrival in Philadelphia was probably the best Christmas present I received last year. One win stood in the Sixers win column before Smith arrived, and it's hard to understate how important his arrival was from a watchability standpoint. As Kirk Cousins was stuntin' all over the Eagles last December 26, Ish was powering the Sixers to their second win, providing us all with a respite from an especially vicious cycle of ineptitude.
That wasn't the high-water mark of the Ish Smith era, but it came close.
The initial boost Smith provided to the Sixers was invaluable for players and fans alike; Nerlens Noel was a direct beneficiary of competent pick-and-roll play, and the team's 5-8 record in the month after they acquired him was a stark contrast from their miserable start. Developmental progress seemed possible again. Unfortunately, the honeymoon period quickly devolved into an exposure of his limitations.
Ish's trajectory during his second stint in Philadelphia wasn't exactly his fault. There's no scenario in which he should be a team's starting point guard playing 30+ minutes a game, but the dearth of talent forced him into that duty for the Sixers.
That's no excuse for the way his play devolved over time. If Smith stuck to his strength -- quick drives to the basket that collapse defenses -- all would have been fine. Unfortunately, his shot selection became noticeably worse. Smith took a lower percentage of shots at the rim and more shots from mid-range and out, in addition to letting the offense transform into Ish-on-Five too much for my liking.
In fairness, there weren't a ton of options better than "go create a shot, Ish" for the team to work with, and the marriage of player and roster was imperfect to begin with. With two bigs clogging the paint, the Sixers needed as much shooting as they could find on the perimeter, and Smith is decidedly below-average in that department.
Long-term, that's the main problem with keeping Smith on the roster. While he's not without his perks, a laundry list of flaws makes him a tough fit for any team, particularly one currently constructed around bigs who will set up shop in the paint. His lack of size is an issue that hurts him on both ends of the court; he's not big and athletic enough to overcome his subpar shooting, and he gets abused defensively in large part because of his diminutive stature.
Age has been a big factor in welcoming flawed and/or limited players the last few seasons, and Smith doesn't necessarily have time on his side. Operating under the assumption the Sixers will be looking for an upgrade at the point guard position, I think T.J. McConnell represents a superior option as a backup point guard. His upside isn't astronomical, but he was better than Smith in several important categories and possesses more future appeal.
On the right team, I've seen enough from Ish to feel comfortable in him playing a role as a change-of-pace player off the bench. Dealing with his speed in cohesion with the right mix of three-and-D players would not be fun for opposing backups.
The Sixers just have too many holes in the roster to support a player who takes as much as he does off the table. He's a good locker room guy and easy enough to root for, but I won't be shedding any tears if the Sixers look to upgrade the point guard spot this summer.