Philadelphia 76ers: Be Patient With Zhaire Smith
During the 2018 NBA Draft, the 76ers traded down to pick 16, where they took Zhaire Smith out of Texas Tech. Initially, the team selected Mikal Bridges 10th overall but ended up shipping him off to Phoenix to take Smith, viewing him as a project. Despite two underwhelming years from him, 76ers fans need to remain patient with Zhaire Smith.
Zhaire Smith was viewed as a freak athlete with raw potential, but not NBA ready when he was drafted. An unfortunate series of events set Zhaire Smith back in his development. During a preseason practice, Smith suffered a Jones Fracture in his left foot. Then, more bad luck hit, as Smith suffered an allergic reaction to sesame seeds that nearly killed him. Smith spent six weeks in the hospital and lost almost 40 pounds, further slowing down his development.
Smith continued to rehab the foot injury, but wouldn’t be cleared to play until much later in the season. He finally made his debut towards the end of March of the 2018-19 season. Smith got to play late in the season with Philly locked into the third seed and averaged 6.7 ppg in six games during his rookie season.
Heading into the preseason, fans expected Brett Brown to include Zhaire Smith in the regular rotation. However, third-year guard Furkan Korkmaz, and second-year guard Shake Milton, each earned minutes ahead of him. When Smith finally made his season debut, it did not last long. Three minutes into the game, he left early with an ankle sprain.
In total, Smith has scored just eight points in 32 minutes played this season. From watching him play, it was clear he was still far from NBA ready. At times he looked lost while on the court, especially on offense. However, fans should remain patient with this second-year guard.
Zhaire Smith came into the NBA viewed as a project player. His allergic reaction and subsequent weight loss likely pushed back his development. However, he still has the potential to be a key contributor for Philly down the road. For one, his biggest strengths are his athleticism and play on the defensive end. Learning to become a better shooter is much easier than learning to become a better defender.
However, before he can take his game to the next level, he needs to bulk up. Putting on some muscle will allow him to become more effective at driving to the rim and create his own shot. While he may not be a starter, Smith can certainly be a contributor for this team down the road. He’s still only 20 years old and has not had enough NBA experience. Be patient and let him develop.
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