With the Philadelphia 76ers desperately searching for another difference maker to turn their early favors around, could Zhaire Smith become that third star?
When the Philadelphia 76ers decided to make the controversial decision to trade Mikal Bridges to the Phoenix Suns for Zhaire Smith and a future unprotected first round pick, it rubbed some people the wrong way.
And rightfully so.
After much of the fanbase pined after Bridges for literally years as he transformed himself from a fresh eyed recruit on the Main Line into a two-time NCAA championship under the watchful eye of Jay Wright, it stung to watch the lifelong Sixers fan, and his poor mother, be exiled to Phoenix thanks to an ill-designed move by then-interum-GM Brett Brown.
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And based on how the 76ers have started out the 2017-2018 NBA season, I think it’s pretty clear they could use a solid 3-and-D wing coming off the bench.
But what if Zhaire Smith, a player who won’t make his Sixers debut until maybe December after catching a case of Rookie-itus, turns out to be not just good, but really, really good?
What if the 6-foot-3 shooting guard, who somehow played center in college at Texas Tech, actually learns how to shoot from deep and becomes a genuinely dominant two-way guard capable of shutting down an opposing team’s best shooter? I mean he does have crazy athletic abilities (the boy can dunk) that could make him a terror as a one-on-one defender, which enough hops to be a surprising u effective rim protector.
What if he can do even more?
This is totally conjecture, but what if Smith not only translates his 45 3-point shooting percentage over from college extrapolated over a much larger number of shots each games (let’s say 5.5 instead of 1.1), but Smith also develops a handle and can serve as a secondary ball handler to compliment T.J. McConnell, J.J. Redick, Markelle Fultz, and Ben Simmons in the backcourt? He’s already a pretty impressive driver to the basket, with a Derrick Rose-y finish, why not attempt to borrow even more from the youngest MVP in league history?
Could Smith seriously go from college center to NBA point guard? That a Simmons-esque transition.
Will any or all of these extrapolations actually happen? Who knows, but until he actually sees the court any of it is possible.
While Smith may not be the player Bridges is right now, as he’s averaging 4.3 points in 11.3 minutes a game while knocking down 33.3 of his 3-point attempts each game, until he actually takes the court for the first time, there’s no way of knowing what kind of NBA player he will be.
That’s part of the fun of drafting a player with a high ceiling.
While I can’t personally get inside Coach Brown’s head, it’s pretty clear he made Smith his 1B in the draft because the team struggled mightily to defend the ragtag guard tandem of the Boston Celtics in the playoffs.
Now granted,could the team have addressed this defensive deficiency by signing a player like David Nwaba, who inked a one-year deal with the Cavs for about $3 million? Sure, but he wanted Smith. He saw something in Smith that he wanted to coach and flipped one of Philly’s favorite sons to ensure his spot on the roster.
Will that move bite the team in the butt if Bridges, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, or Michael Porter Jr. become legitimate All-Star caliber players? Sure, but in this case, Brett Brown was able to shop for his own ingredients, so let’s see what he makes of Zhaire Smith, Landry Shamet, and Shake Milton. I’m personally hoping for something good.