I will admit it. When I heard the Rockets had added undrafted rookie point guard Ishmael Smith to their Summer League roster, I thought "big deal." Surely, he was just another warm body to put out there and run the point. And even though he played well in Summer League (most undrafted guys do), I didn't figure we would see him in camp and preseason this Fall. Wow, was I ever wrong...
Not only is "Ish" Smith still here, but there is plenty of talk about him making the team as the 15th man on the final roster. Rick Adelman seems to love him and plenty of fans have warmed up to him quickly, even calling him "This preseasons Von Wafer." But who the heck is this guy? And if he looks like he could cut it in the NBA, why on earth wasn't he drafted? We'll take a look after the jump...
In four years at Wake Forest, Smith graduated as one of the most successful players in the history of the program. In fact, he is the only Deacon to have 1,000 points and 600 assists in their career there. He was a team captain and starter for three years at Wake and was considered a natural leader on and off the court. His speed has been compared to Aaron Brooks (and we've seen it, too) and his athleticism and all around game has been said to resemble that of a young Rajon Rondo. His passing skills have also received much praise as he averaged 6 assists per game as a Senior and was named to the All-ACC second team.
So why the hell wasn't this kid drafted?
First off is his size. Listing him as 6'0" is being generous. He is about as tall as Aaron Brooks with shoes on. Plus, his build is that of the kind that a big guard like Deron Williams would just post him up and dominate him on offense. His free throw shooting was also atrocious at Wake Forest, shooting under 48% for his career. But many scouts still thought he would get picked up by someone in the late 2nd round, which as we know didn't happen.
Now, I do not want to compare Smith to Rajon Rondo. But I will say that a lot of the negatives listed on him are eerily similar to those of Rondo coming out of Kentucky. Sure, that is a best case scenario and no one expects that here. Just bringing it up, as many scouts compared him to Rondo before the draft.
So, does he really have a shot at making the final roster? I am leaning towards yes. Unless he just looks terrible the rest of the way out, I would actually say his chances of making the roster are better at him making the cut than not. Why? Well, remember how the Rockets fell apart last year when Kyle Lowry got hurt and Will Conroy had to step in as the backup from the D-League? The team doesn't want that to happen again. And while I don't want to put the "injury prone" label on Kyle, he did just miss his third preseason game this morning in China. Therefore, I think Smith will make it simply as a precautionary move. And I'm good with it.
Smith is a true, pass-first point guard. Something this team has lacked for some time and seems to be a terrific fit in Coach Adelman's system. But in a best case scenario, he isn't seeing any time on the floor, of course. Because both Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry stay healthy all season. But I personally believe he is a nice backup plan. Much nicer than the one the team didn't plan for well last season.
What do you guys think? Would you like to see Ish "The Dish" Smith on the final roster here in a couple weeks? Or does he have Rio Grande Valley Vipers written all over him? Make your opinion known in the comments below.