One of the pleasant surprises of last season was the emergence of Ishmael Smith as a spirited rotation player in the backup point guard role.
Ish made the league minimum, and his 2014-15 contract was going to be guaranteed if he was on the Suns roster after today (July 15). Ish being squeezed out is more a matter of numbers than anything else. There just wouldn't be minutes for him next season, barring catastrophic injuries.
"We thank Ish Smith for his contributions to the Suns," said President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby in the Suns press release. "He played with an infectious joy. We wish him well."
Ish came over to the Suns in the trade of Caron (we hardly knew ye) Butler to Milwaukee in late August along with Viasheslav Kravtsov and quickly earned the backup job from Kendall Marshall, who was later dumped to the scrap heap via Washington.
Smith quickly gained a connection with the team as a spirited lock room presence and speed demon on the court when he got a chance to play. His chance really took off when Eric Bledsoe missed half the season due to knee surgery, becoming the primary backup point guard to Goran Dragic.
Smith was a speed demon on the court with the ball, but was a real non-factor in scoring. He could not make three pointers and had trouble getting to the rim in traffic. But his open court game was perfect for the run-n-gun Suns who led the league in fast break points.
Ish Smith, by the way, is one of only three Suns backups since the 80s to collect at least two 8-assist games in less than 20 minutes of playing time in a single season. The others: Jeff Hornacek and Goran Dragic.
But with the Suns playing two point guards at a time, they need at least four to rotate throughout the game and cover for injuries. Dragic and Bledsoe only started 34 games together last year - less than half the season. So, the Suns decided to double down on the 2PG system by adding more talent.