Ish Smith’s trip through the Statistical Doppelgänger Machine yielded thoroughly predictable results. He’s a small, veteran point guard whose production is around league average. With, let’s say this politely, other than orthodox shooting technique, he doesn’t launch many threes, which means he should draw comps from before the boom in three-point shooting.
Sure enough, the doppelgänger machine produced small, veteran point guards who by this point in their careers were useful, average-ish players who didn’t shoot many threes. And, there were “throwback” names high on the list — a couple among the 10 most similar, and more just outside that range.
The Doppelgänger Machine works by taking a player across an array of statistical dimensions, including age, playing time and per possession box score stats and comparing him to every other player season since 1977-78.
Here’s the top 10 for Ish Smith’s 2019-20 (his age 31 season):
- Anthony Johnson, 2005-06, Indiana Pacers, age 31 — Johnson played 13 seasons despite not being much good until year seven. In 2005-06 he posted a career-high 109 PPA. His production basically fell off a cliff, but he played until age 35.
- Luke Ridnour, 2012-13, Minnesota Timberwolves, 31 — Started all 82 games and led the Timberwolves in minutes, primarily because star Kevin Love was injured. Ridnour was kinda decent at times (he peaked with a 122 PPA at age 24) but this was his last hurrah. He played two more seasons at replacement level.
- Mike James, 2006-07, Minnesota Timberwolves, 31 — Another crappy Timberwolves starting point guard on a bad team. And good lord this roster! They played Ricky Davis more than 3,000 minutes. Mark Blount, Trenton Hassel and James all got more than 2,000. Randy Foye got 1,800 minutes. Kevin Garnett, great as he was, couldn’t get this team above 31 wins. James somehow got jobs in 12 different NBA seasons with 9 different teams, including two seasons with the Wizards. His last gig was at age 37.
- Jarrett Jack, 2014-15, Brooklyn Nets, 31 — Small, decent PG who had some years as a starter. His best year was a 127 PPA at age 28. By this time, he was declining, though he did have an injury-plagued 92 PPA at age 32. He was finished at 34.
- Jarret Jack, 2013-14, Cleveland Cavaliers, 30
- Raymond Felton, 2015-16, Dallas Mavericks, 31 — A sometimes starter in his youth, Felton peaked with a 126 PPA at age 25. By 31, he was much-diminished (69 PPA). He had two more seasons with about the same level production.
- Tony Parker, 2016-17, San Antonio Spurs, 34 — Don’t get excited. Parker was awesome for a long time but was falling apart physically at 34. This was the worst performance (92 PPA) from him since his rookie season (80 PPA), though he got significantly worse from here — (67 PPA at 35 in his last season with the Spurs, and a 66 PPA at age 36 with Charlotte).
- Mike Bibby, 2009-10, Atlanta Hawks, 31 — Again, don’t get excited. Like Parker, Bibby was excellent. This was his last above average season (108 PPA), though he did manage a 99 the following year. He was done at 33.
- Damon Stoudamire, 2002-03, Portland Trailblazers, 29 — Stoudamire’s career was a cut above Smith’s. He peaked at a 129 PPA at 27, which he nearly duplicated with a 126 at 31. Dealing with injuries, this would be the worst season of his career until his final go-around — just 413 minutes with the Spurs at age 34.
- Larry Drew, 1987-88, Los Angeles Clippers, 29 — A decent starter at his best (peaked at a 130 PPA at age 24 for the Kansas City Kings), he was well into decline at this point. He had a 74 PPA in this 87-88 season, and then performed at replacement level in his final two years.
The list of players close to making the top 10 include more of the same, all at least semi-useful PGs 29 or older — names like:
- Aaron Brooks
- John Roche
- Sedale Threatt
- Keyon Dooling
- Mo Williams
- Bimbo Coles
- Jose Calderon
- Rory Sparrow
- Derek Fisher
Smith’s closest comp from Wizards/Bullets history was a 29-year old Chris Whitney. The biggest difference between the two: despite playing before the three-point boom, Whitney took twice as many threes per possession as Smith did this season. Others who were close: A.J. Price, an almost-finished 32-year old Gus Williams, Mike James (who somehow started 50 games for the 2008-09 Wizards), and an almost-finished 31-year old Michael Adams.
Smith is a crafty veteran who’s fun to watch. He should make an acceptable backup next season, though the Wizards would be smart not to rely on him as a contributor beyond 2020-21.