Over the next few weeks, we'll evaluate the Sixers' roster after the 10-72 season. Up next: Ish Smith.
Position: Point guard
Status: Unrestricted free agent
Smith made a splash in his return to the Wells Fargo Center as a member of the Sixers. The team had won just a single home game when they took on the Timberwolves on Jan 4. Smith recorded a 21-point, 11-assist double-double in a 109-99 victory. He rejuvenated the Sixers on their homecourt and excited the crowd with "the dish from Ish."
Smith in 2015-16
Smith was one of the Sixers' strongest additions of the season. The thing is, he could have been on the team all along. Smith appeared in 25 games for the Sixers in 2015, but they opted not to re-sign him. He went through training camp with the Wizards and was waived in late October. The Pelicans claimed him and added him to their roster as a backup.
The Sixers found themselves at 1-30 and in serious need of a starting point guard. On Dec. 24, they sent a pair of second-round picks to the Pelicans to re-acquire Smith. Two days later, the Sixers beat the Suns and won three of the first six games with Smith at the helm.
Smith, 27, brought a veteran voice to the floor. He had an instant chemistry with Nerlens Noel and frequently found the big man for lobs. Coaches around the league often commented on how much different the Sixers looked with Smith than without him. Smith's quick success as a starter after traveling around the NBA was a high note in the Sixers' disappointing season.
In 50 games for the Sixers, Smith averaged 14.7 points (40.5 percent from the field), 7.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds in 32.4 minutes. He doubled his career average of 5.8 points, 3.3 assists, 2.1 rebounds and 16.3 minutes.
There were games when Smith struggled with shot selection. He attempted a season-high 28 field goals (28.6 percent shooting) in an overtime loss to the Knicks. He also hit a skid in March during which he shot 8 for 38 (21.1 percent) over three consecutive losses to the Celtics, Pacers and Nuggets. On the flip side, he had 15 games with 20 or more points and led the Sixers in scoring in 13 games (one tie). Smith dished 10 or more assists in eight games. He also recorded a career-high seven double-doubles.
Brett Brown has said he considers the point guard to be the most important position. So here come the questions. The Sixers have the salary cap flexibility to go after high caliber free agents. Will they choose to spend big on a point guard? This summer, though, the pool isn't that deep at that position and if they are going to select a starter through free agency they could opt to bring back Smith. Then comes the draft. Depending on where the ping pong balls fall, they could select a rookie as their future floor leader. Or, they could try to acquire a top-level point guard through a trade using their variety of assets.
Smith will have options, too. This season he proved himself to be more than just a veteran journeyman. He should receive interest from other teams, whether it is as a starter or a backup is yet to be seen.
"To me, it's still amazing that when he showed up in Phoenix an hour before game time that he put a uniform on and stepped out on the floor and led a team to a win, a badly needed win. That was a shot of adrenaline for sure, and it's carried over." -- Jerry Colangelo
"I love him. I think Ish is a guy that people don't give him his credit. I think he's done a great job all season." -- Russell Westbrook (former teammate)