Everyone in the Mile High City is slavering over the return of Jamal Murray to the Denver Nuggets starting lineup and the potential of a deep playoff run with improved point guard play from second-year man Bones Hyland.
Some are nervous about how Denver will hold up in the backcourt following the departure of veteran presence Monte Morris to Washington in the deal to land Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, but another underrated addition has arrived in the trade in the form of veteran Ish Smith.
Smith has been quietly productive in the first few preseason games of 2022, playing a little more than expected against the Chicago Bulls once Murray exited the contest with thigh soreness after 13 minutes of court time.
The 34-year-old offers stability at the position and is someone head coach Michael Malone can trust as the Denver Nuggets begin the year with some uncertainty and rust with the starting unit.
Can Ish Smith provide the help Denver needs to succeed?
After going undrafted in 2010 out of Wake Forest, Smith has made a name for himself, playing for 13 different NBA teams throughout his career and providing trustworthy minutes, scoring potential, and ball handling wherever he goes.
Smith has the ability to be a bright spot for Denver as they figure out how the point guard minutes will fall as Murray works his way back to where he once was. Smith is efficient and savvy, both welcome attributes when piecing together this Nuggets squad.
In their first preseason game against the Oklahoma City Thunder, Smith played a team-high 20 minutes to pace the Nuggets and keep Murray fresh while Hyland got himself in hot water after a couple of questionable decisions that had Malone steaming on the bench. Smith chipped in seven points, a rebound, an assist, and a block along with going 3-of-7 from the field.
In the Denver Nuggets’ following game against the Chicago Bulls, Smith was even more efficient, going 4-of-5 from the field in only 13 minutes of playing time to finish fourth on the team in scoring behind Hyland, Michael Porter Jr., and Aaron Gordon, with five assists thrown in to boot.
Smith can often be forgotten about when Mile High Basketball fans recall the trade that sent Will Barton and Monte Morris away. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and the Blue Arrow have immense pressure to perform following the deal, but maybe Ish Smith could surprise some people as he gobbles up leftover minutes in the wake of Murray’s recent rust.
Smith should help calm the waters and add veteran decision-making to a group ready to prove itself as a consistent contender in the West. As Murray gets healthy, Smith’s minutes are likely to dwindle, but for now, this is shaping up to be quite the opportunity for the aging vagabond point guard.
Smith could be the forgotten help that lifts the Denver Nuggets past tough times early on.