Once Jerry Colangelo was brought on board the Philadelphia 76ers staff, fans, members of the media and fellow 76ers staff members were overjoyed. The move to bring Colangelo on board meant that his great basketball mind was going to move this great 76ers organization in the right direction. However, it was one of Colangelo’s first moves that had fans, members of the media and perhaps some of the members of the Philadelphia 76ers staff, scratching their head. On Christmas Eve, 2015, the 76ers received an early present that not many people asked for nor did they expect. That present is better known as Ish Smith.
Smith, who was a member of the Philadelphia 76ers roster in the 2014-15 season, signed with the New Orleans Pelicans in the offseason after the 76ers elected not to re-sign the point guard from Wake Forest. So, when Colangelo and the 76ers shipped off two future second-round picks for Smith to come back, many people were confused and a little upset. However, that early Christmas present the 76ers received, turned out to be the best present of them all.
Before the Ish Smith’s return, the 76ers were the laughing stock of the NBA with a league’s worst 1-30 record. Since acquiring Smith, the 76ers are a much more respectable 6-10 in 16 games. In those 16 games, Smith has lead the charge averaging 15.9 points, 8.1 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 31.1 minutes per game. In those 16 games, Smith recorded a career high 28 points on January 9 against the Raptors and a career high 16 assists on January 18 against the Knicks. With Smith at the point, the 76ers are playing some of the best, most exciting brand of basketball we have seen all season.
Not only is Smith improving his own numbers, but he is making players around him better. A big example of that would be Nerlens Noel. During Smith’s tenure with the 76ers in the 2014-15 season, Noel had nothing but high praise for the point guard, telling cbslocal.com, “…he’s the first true point-guard I’ve ever really played with..I think we compliment each other so well.” In the 25 games Noel has played without Smith this season, Noel averaged 9.8 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Since Smith rejoined the 76ers, Noel is averaging 12.2 points and 9.1 rebounds per game in 16 games. Not to mention, plenty of exciting alley-oops between the two.
It was no secret that before Smith, the 76ers were difficult to watch. Along with Smith, energy and excitement came with him. Respect has started to come back from around the league and signs of better days have become so much clearer.