Zhaire Smith's role with the Sixers isn't yet clear for this season, but the 20-year-old guard has a future with the team.
General manager Elton Brand confirmed that Wednesday. The team announced it has exercised Smith's third-year option for the 2020-21 season, worth $3.2 million.
The Sixers acquired Smith and the Miami Heat's 2021 first-round pick last year in a draft-night trade with the Phoenix Suns, who received Mikal Bridges. Smith played in six regular-season games his rookie year, averaging 6.7 points and and 2.2 rebounds per game, but that's far from the whole story. Smith broke his foot in August, then suffered a severe allergic reaction and subsequent complications that led to him losing over 35 pounds. Over time, Smith regained his standout athleticism and rebuilt his jump shot after changing his form to compensate for his loss of strength (see story).
Head coach Brett Brown described Smith during training camp as a "pogo stick" and has praised his talent for on-ball defense, comparing him on multiple occasions to Avery Bradley. However, Smith has not been part of the Sixers' rotation during the preseason. Brown has acknowledged that development is a great priority for the Sixers with Smith than immediate contribution, especially after everything he went through as a rookie. The emergence of rookie Matisse Thybulle and solid play of Shake Milton during the preseason are further reasons why Smith hasn't been playing with the Sixers' regulars. Smith played the entire fourth quarter Tuesday night of the Sixers' 106-86 win over the Pistons and had seven points and three rebounds.
"It's just a process, so I'm not worried about it," he said. "As long as we get the win, it doesn't matter."
Given the potential the Sixers saw in Smith — and continue to see — it never seemed plausible that they would decline his third-year option.
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