Ish Smith had enough draft red flags coming out of Wake Forest that he wasn’t selected at all in this past summer’s draft, but by now there should be no doubt that Smith is a legitimate NBA prospect. Smith may not have exploded onto the scene with his first chances at legitimate playing time, but he held his own, ran the offense to the best of his abilities, and showcased the kind of burst speed that could eventually make him a legitimate NBA weapon. He clearly isn’t a rotation caliber player yet, but Smith has shown plenty of promise this season. It’s quite the curiosity that Smith wasn’t deemed worthy of a second round pick.
Let’s not romanticize things, though; Smith is a decent prospect, but he’s not ready to play consistent minutes, particularly over the high-minute point guards already in place in Houston. Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry — both of whom have fought injuries throughout the season, which allowed Smith to play a bit in the first place — are likely to fill most of the PG minutes for the Rockets, and Courtney Lee provides Houston with a solid third option for a rainy day. That doesn’t leave much of an opportunity for Smith, whom the Rockets have assigned to their D-League affiliate, the Rio Grand Valley Vipers.
This will be Smith’s first tour in the D-League. He’ll certainly get more minutes with the Vipers than he would with the Rockets, but the point guard spot in RGV isn’t Smith’s alone. Mustafa Shakur, one of the more promising point guard prospects in the D-league, is currently at the helm for the Vipers, and he won’t be stepping aside just so Smith can log some time. It’ll be up to Smith to earn every minute he gets on the floor in he D, and if he plays as well as he did for the Rockets, he shouldn’t have too much of a problem grabbing every minute to be had in the Vipers’ backcourt.