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NBA draft profile: Texas Tech G Zhaire Smith

NBA draft profile: Texas Tech G Zhaire Smith

Zhaire Smith

Position: Guard

Height: 6-4

Weight: 199

School: Texas Tech

You won’t be able to tell just by looking at him or listening to him talk. Zhaire Smith’s physique isn’t overly imposing and he’s a pretty soft-spoken guy.

Even the numbers wouldn’t be able to explain things for Smith. He averaged a modest 11.3 points and 5.0 rebounds a game as a freshman for Texas Tech in 2017-18.

But if you watch him play, Smith’s game is loud. It’s angry and aggressive.

Smith burst onto the scene with his elite athleticism and active defensive ability to help lead the Red Raiders to the Elite Eight. Now he’s gone from three-star recruit to likely first-round pick.

Strengths
As mentioned earlier, Smith’s game has a certain bounce. Serious bounce.

The 19-year-old tied for second among all players at the NBA draft combine with a vertical leap of 41.5 inches.

And it’s not just the leaping ability. Smith is fearless when going to the rack. He will dunk over, through and around just about anyone at the rim.

That attitude extends to the defensive side where Smith uses his 6-9 wingspan to terrorize opponents. 

“Defending,” Smith said Tuesday after his pre-draft workout with the Sixers when asked about his go-to skill. “I feel like anybody can score. If you just do that small thing that coach wants you to, you’re good in the league.”

Weaknesses
While Smith noted athleticism and defense as his main talents, the rest of his game needs some work. He is the quintessential jack-of-all-trades, master of none. 

Smith can get buckets at times, but he wouldn’t be one of a team’s primary scorers at the next level. He also can set up teammates, but don’t expect him to be a legit playmaker.

Even his shooting percentages at Texas Tech — which were extremely strong — come with a bit of an asterisk. Smith shot 55.6 percent from the field (with a lot of those baskets coming on dunks and put-backs). He even connected on 45.0 percent from three-point range, although that was on 40 total attempts in 37 games.

NBA comparison
There are countless sheer athletes in the NBA, but let’s go with Houston Rockets guard Gerald Green. Both have freakish leaping ability, like to do the dirty work on defense and hail from Texas (Green is from Houston and Smith is a Garland, Texas, native).

How’d he fit with Sixers
The Sixers are trying to make waves right now in the league and don’t have much time for players that can be viewed as projects. Plus, with Markelle Fultz and Justin Anderson already on the roster, there isn’t much room for another slash-first guard.

If Smith were more of a threat from long range, there might be serious consideration. But 18 makes in 40 games doesn’t scream of a guy that’s going to make that his calling card in the NBA.

Draft projection 
Smith said after his workout with the Sixers that he’s hearing he should be selected anywhere from No. 11 to No. 20. That sounds about right for him, which means the Sixers would be taking a risk at No. 10 and aren’t high enough at No. 26 if they wanted to nab him later.

Source: Nemanja Bjelica will not sign with Sixers, returning to Europe

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Source: Nemanja Bjelica will not sign with Sixers, returning to Europe

There's a reason why the Sixers hadn't announced the acquisition of Nemanja Bjelica.

No dotted line was ever inked.

The free-agent power forward, who had reportedly agreed to a one-year deal earlier this month, informed the Sixers on Tuesday he will not sign and instead return to Europe, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported the news.

The 30-year-old Bjelica, who reportedly agreed on the mid-level exception, was seen as a cheaper and younger replacement for Ersan Ilyasova, who signed with the Bucks.

A 6-foot-10, 240-pounder from Serbia, Bjelica played three seasons with the Timberwolves. Last year in Minnesota, he set career highs in minutes (20.5), points per game (6.8), rebounds per game (4.1), three-point percentage (41.5) and three-pointers made (76).

Along with Ilyasova, the Sixers also lost key bench contributor Marco Belinelli in free agency. They acquired Wilson Chandler in a trade with the Nuggets and may possibly go forward with internal options to fill out pieces to their second unit.

The team on Monday officially re-signed big man Amir Johnson. It also has some size and shooting ability along the wing in Justin Anderson (6-6), Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (6-6) and Furkan Korkmaz (6-7).

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Sixers reportedly rebuffed in attempt to hire Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Sixers reportedly rebuffed in attempt to hire Rockets GM Daryl Morey

Well, you can’t say the Sixers aren’t aiming high.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the Sixers “have been rebuffed in their attempt to hire away Houston's Daryl Morey to take over as their new general manager.” Stein added that the team had great interest in Morey, but he couldn’t be lured away from the Rockets.

Morey, who has served as the Rockets’ general manager since 2007, was named the NBA’s Executive of the Year after Houston secured the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference with a franchise-best 65-17 record during the 2017-18 regular season.

Morey obviously fits the Sixers from a surface standpoint with his analytics background, commitment to building a pace-and-space roster and desire to chase stars. However, what makes the Sixers’ desire in him really interesting is that Morey is the mentor of former Sixers front office executive Sam Hinkie.

Bryan Colangelo, the man who replaced Hinkie in the Sixers’ front office, resigned in June after a scandal involving multiple secret Twitter accounts rocked the franchise. Head coach Brett Brown took over as interim general manager following Colangelo's resignation.

The Sixers have been patient throughout their search as managing owner Josh Harris recently said there is no timetable to select a candidate.

“We’re just getting focused on it now, given everything with free agency and the draft, and also the other GMs are in the same place. We’re looking for the right person,” Harris told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Amy Fadool last week (see story). “One of the things that Bryan Colangelo did really well was we built a great staff, whether it be (vice president of basketball operations and chief of staff) Ned Cohen or (vice president of analytics and strategy) Alex Rucker or (vice president of player personnel) Marc Eversley or (Delaware Blue Coats general manger) Elton Brand, we have a lot of great people. It’s very consensus-oriented, there’s a lot of people in the dialogue, and we want to make sure we find the right fit for that. 

“It’s not going to be easy. My guess is it’s going to take awhile. And we’re obviously focused on doing it as quickly as possible, but at the same time I don’t want to set unrealistic expectations — it could take a little while. So we’re just starting that.”

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