76ers

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.

Sixers vs. Jazz: Live stream, storylines, game time, more for Jimmy Butler's home debut

Sixers vs. Jazz: Live stream, storylines, game time, more for Jimmy Butler's home debut

Here he comes, Philadelphia.

Jimmy Butler makes his home debut for the Sixers Friday night vs. the Utah Jazz.

Here’s a closer look at the matchup.

• Butler had a quiet but solid debut for the Sixers. He finished the game with 14 points (6 of 12 shooting) and showed a little of his elite defensive ability.

The end result was obviously not what the team or Butler wanted, but you did see signs that this thing could work (see story). The two-man game with Butler and Joel Embiid looked intriguing (see film review). Also, the starting five of Butler, Embiid, Ben Simmons, JJ Redick and Wilson Chandler moved the ball extremely well at times.

• I’m especially intrigued by Chandler after his performance in Orlando. He showed the first signs of life for any Sixer after that horrid 21-0 Magic run and helped get the team back on top briefly. 

He finished with a season-high 14 points in 23 minutes. More importantly, it was the most spry the 31-year-old has looked since returning to the lineup from a hamstring strain. Chandler didn’t close out that game as Brett Brown still monitors his minutes. Hopefully Chandler will be let loose soon.

• There is a little concern over Simmons and Embiid fitting with Butler. The second-year point guard was very quiet in the loss Wednesday (nine points, six assists, three rebounds). You can blame some of that on Butler’s first game but he was pretty quiet in Miami as well (13 points, seven rebounds, seven assists). Embiid recorded his first triple-double, but was just 1 of 10 in the second half vs. the Magic. He also spent a great deal of time outside of the post.

The worry when the Sixers acquired Butler was about his fit, since most of his points come from inside the arc. It’s Brown’s task to try to make the pieces fit and get Simmons and Embiid going.

• The building will be electric for Butler’s debut but expect a hungry Jazz team to come out Friday night. Utah was embarrassed by the Mavericks in Dallas Wednesday, losing by 50(!) points, 118-68. The Jazz scored just 22 points in the second half. With that taste in their mouth, expect Donovan Mitchell and company to come out with their hair on fire.

• It’s been a bit of a struggle recently for Mitchell, who has been dealing with a hamstring injury of his own. The runner-up for last season’s Rookie of the Year has shot just 37 percent from the field and 26 percent from three over his last six games. In addition to the loss vs. the Mavericks, expect Mitchell to have a little extra motivation to spoil the evening for Simmons and company.

Here are the essentials for Butler’s debut.

When: 7 p.m. EST 
Where: Wells Fargo Center
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia (Pregame Live starts at 6:30 p.m. EST)
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the MyTeams by NBC Sports app

Roster
Jonah Bolden, F, 6-10, 220, No. 43 
Jimmy Butler, F, 6-8, 236, No. 23 
Wilson Chandler, F, 6-9/225, No. 22 
Joel Embiid, C, 7-0/260, No. 21 
Markelle Fultz, G, 6-4/200, No. 20 
* Demetrius Jackson, G, 6-1/200, No. 11 
Amir Johnson, F/C, 6-9/240, No. 5 
Furkan Korkmaz, G/F, 6-7/185, No. 30 
T.J. McConnell, G, 6-2/190, No. 12 
* Shake Milton, G, 6-6/205, No. 18 
Mike Muscala, F/C, 6-11/240, No. 31 
JJ Redick, G 6-4/195, No. 17 13
Landry Shamet, G, 6-5/190, No. 23
Ben Simmons, G/F, 6-10/230, No. 25 
Zhaire Smith, G, 6-4/200, No. 8
Justin Patton, C, 6-11/229, No. 0

* Two-way player

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Sixers vs. Jazz: 3 storylines to watch in Jimmy Butler's home debut

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Sixers vs. Jazz: 3 storylines to watch in Jimmy Butler's home debut

Jimmy Butler will don a Sixers uniform for the first time at Wells Fargo Center tonight, in front of his new home crowd against the Utah Jazz. The playbook will still be limited for Butler, but we’re looking forward to his second game alongside his new teammates. Here are three storylines to watch out for.
 
Jimmy, Jo-Jo Connection
 There’s already some chemistry developing between Joel Embiid and Butler. After their first shootaround, Brett Brown said they were both going out of their way to create for each other, and a few minutes into their first game together, Embiid found Butler cutting back door.
 
Adding an additional two-man game (like the one Embiid already has with JJ Redick), could take this team to another level.
 
Blown leads/turnovers In crunch time
 The Sixers said goodbye to a 16-point lead in the fourth quarter, after the Magic went on a 21-0 run. On top of that, the Sixers committed three crucial turnovers within two minutes at the end of the fourth that could’ve cost them the game. (They also gave up 13 points in the fourth off their six turnovers.)
 
If you follow the Sixers, you’ve noticed that both giving up leads in the second half and late-game turnovers are becoming quite the trend. Will they buck the trend tonight?
 
Ben Simmons vs. Dante Exum
Dante Exum and Ben Simmons will be facing each other for the first time in the NBA, after growing up together in Australia. Friends since they met when they were eight years old; tonight should be a much anticipated moment for the both of them. Exum doesn’t start for Utah so their actual time on the court together will likely be limited, but it’ll still be fun to watch two childhood friends — who once teamed up to win a silver medal with Team Australia’s FIBA Under-17 team — go at it.

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