The Philadelphia 76ers have traded for Zhaire Smith in the 2018 NBA draft. The selection originally belonged to the Phoenix Suns with the No. 16 overall pick.
Off the radar to start the season, Smith steadily built momentum, emerging as a legitimate first-round prospect for his effortless athleticism, defensive playmaking and flashes of offense. Though still viewed as a project, he's one of the youngest prospects (turned 19 on June 4) in the draft and loaded with upside.
Weight: 199 pounds
Wingspan: 6'9 ¾"
Pro-player comparison: Justin Anderson/Kent Bazemore
Smith's offensive impact and production are fueled mostly by his motor and explosiveness. The majority (22.0 percent) of his offense came off cuts, a reflection of his off-ball activity. An explosive leaper, Smith's 1.34 points per possession in transition ranked in the 90th percentile. He also used the offensive glass for scoring chances, having converted 28 putbacks, including a handful of highlight tip dunks.
As a shooter, he made 39.7 percent of his total jump shots and 18 of his 40 three-point attempts. Smith isn't a playmaker, but he did demonstrate strong vision and passing ability.
Smith's ball skills are limited. He has 2-guard size, but he's more of a wing, without the ability to create. He finished 6-of-25 out of isolation, and he only generated seven total points as a pick-and-roll ball-handler. A 12.6 assist percentage isn't a guard-like number. He relies heavily on his athleticism for offense. Smith shot well from three, but he only made 0.5 per game, and he made just 11 of 29 jumpers off the dribble. He also didn't convert a runner or floater all season.
Smith's defensive outlook may be the most exciting aspect of his potential. He averaged 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks per 40 minutes, showing the ability to make plays on the ball by pickpocketing, jumping lanes or challenging finishers above the rim. Smith fights hard defensively. He guards with grit and intensity. With a 6'9 ¾" wingspan and foot speed, Smith can defend ball-handlers and wings from positions 1 through 3.
Limited offensively, Smith will only be used next year for his defense, energy and ability to make athletic plays that result in easy baskets. Any outside shots he hits will be considered a bonus. Chances are Smith will go through stretches of DNPs or stints in the G League. But when the team's offense becomes stagnant or it needs a jolt, Smith should get the occasional nod from the bench to inject the lineup with some life.
Projected role: High-end role player
Smith's ceiling will depend on how much skill he develops over the next few seasons. He has enormous room to improve as a ball-handler and shot-maker. His floor is high as well. Worst-case scenario, he'll carve out a career for his defense and off-ball impact as a cutter, rebounder, driver and finisher. But Smith looks poised to make strides and become a threatening-enough offensive player, given the progress he's already shown since the start of his freshman season.