© Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

With Ish Smith Out Several Weeks, Who Will Man Backup PG for Pistons?

A rookie could step into a key role.

December 07, 2018 - 12:43 pm
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A position of strength has suddenly become a question mark for the Pistons. Ish Smith, one of the better backup point guards in the NBA, tore the adductor muscle in his thigh in Detroit's loss to Milwaukee on Wednesday and will be out three to six weeks, Dwane Casey said on Friday

Smith was averaging 9.2 points and 3.0 assists through the Pistons' first 22 games. He was playing about 25 minutes per night. 

To replace that production, Casey said he'll turn to a cast of different guards, including rookies Bruce Brown and Khyri Thomas. Jose Calderon and Luke Kennard will be part of the equation as well.  

It's an unexpected opportunity for Brown and Thomas, a pair of second-round draft picks. Brown has already played a bigger role than many figured he would. He's appeared in 15 games, averaging more than 20 minutes over the last seven and emerging as a key player off the bench. Thomas has appeared in four games, including Wednesday's loss to the Bucks. 

Neither one is a prototypical point guard -- especially Thomas, who's much more of a scoring two -- but it's a good chance to see what they can do. 

"We always do a lot to prepare them to play point,” Casey said. “Khyri’s been handling the ball a lot in the G League, which is a great experience for him. They’ve had reps at the point before, so they know what to do.”

At the other end of the spectrum is Calderon, a 15-year vet. He's played sparingly in 16 games, but averaged 4.5 points and 2.1 assists in a more significant role season with the Cavs. His minutes -- just 9.2 per game -- figure to increase. 

“I think a lot of it is going to be matchup driven. That’s one reason we gave Jose more run (Wednesday) night, to get the rust off a little bit, just in case," Casey said. 

Kennard, who just came back from a 16-game absence due to a shoulder injury, is shaking off the rust himself. He's 1-11 from the field in two games since his return, but has the ball-handling skills to play some point. 

“I still don’t think he’s 100 percent,” Casey said. “He is physically, but mentally you kind of avoid that shoulder. Bringing him along slowly. Luke is a big part of what we’re going to do.”

Last year, it was an injury to Reggie Jackson that torpedoed the Pistons' season. He missed 37 games between December and March, during which time the team went 12-25. Now the Pistons will have to survive without Jackson's backup -- and two unheralded rookies will help determine their fate.