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When both Goran Dragic and Eric Bledsoe were healthy at the beginning of the season, Ish Smith struggled. He rarely saw playing time, and when he did come off the bench, he wasn't very effective.
Since Bledsoe went down, Smith has become an incredibly productive backup point guard. And if the Suns want to remain in the playoff race, they need him to maintain that level of production, at least as long as Eric Bledsoe is out.
In the last couple months, Smith has had the opportunity to showcase his skillset.
On defense, though he is only 6'0" and can be bullied in the post, but he is a pesky defender capable of racking up steals, averaging 1.9 steals per 36 minutes.
For his height, he is a fantastic rebounder, and he grabs 4.2 rebounds per 36 minutes.
He has fine court vision and can easily find the open man on offense, which he has displayed through several beautiful passes. He also only turns the ball over 2.6 times per 36 minutes.
But most importantly, Smith is a blur on offense. Alright, maybe he's not the blur (that title belongs to his teammate Leandro Barbosa), but he is incredibly quick nevertheless. He always comes off the bench looking alert and energetic, and he pushes the pace of the offense on every possession.
Smith has responded to an increase in playing time with a higher level of production. Since the start of 2014, he's averaging 4.8 points and 2.8 assists in 16.3 minutes per game and is shooting 42 percent from the field.
Those are not superb numbers, and Smith is not capable of being a spark off the bench every game. However, he can occasionally be the team's best second-unit weapon.
Take, for example, his recent game against the San Antonio Spurs. With both Bledsoe and Leandro Barbosa out, Smith had the opportunity to log even more minutes than usual. He responded by putting up a career-high 15 points, as well as seven rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks on 78 percent shooting.
Highlights of that game can be found here. Notice the level of energy that Smith plays with, and how he hustles on both defense and offense, always trying to quicken the pace of the game. In this particular game, he set the tone for the entire bench unit with that energy, and the Suns were able to crush the Spurs.
Eric Bledsoe may only be out for a few more weeks, and what will become of Smith then is unknown. For now, he simply has to focus on continuing to play his style of basketball. With Bledsoe injured and Barbosa aging, Smith has established himself as a unique player on the roster.