The Washington Wizards hold the 15th and 44th overall picks in the 2018 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects projected to be picked around where the Wizards will select...
2018 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Preview: Zhaire Smith
School: Texas Tech
Position: Shooting guard
Max vertical: 41.5
2017/18 stats: 11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.8 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.1 bpg, 55.6 FG%, 45.0 3PT% (0.5 3P/1.1 3PA), 71.7 FT%
Player comparison: Avery Bradley/Jrue Holiday
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 15th, NBADraft.net 15th, Bleacher Report 17th, Sports Illustrated 17th
5 things to know:
*Smith is one of the most impressive athletes in this draft class and may be the best dunker. Though he's 6-foot-4, and that's not huge for a shooting guard, he boasts a 6-10 wingspan and a 41 1/2-inch vertical, one of the best at this year's NBA Combine. Smith did a good job of using those traits to wreak havoc on defense in college. He was particularly adept at forcing turnovers, averaging over a steal and a block per game.
*Smith has great instincts blocking shots and is excellent at chasedown blocks on fastbreaks, similar to John Wall. Smith had 13 games of two blocks or more, including a career-high four blocks against Texas Christian on Feb. 3. Smith could help the Wizards improve defending three-point shots with his length and instincts to alter shots.
*Offensively, Smith remains relatively raw. He was an efficient scorer in college with high percentages from both the field and three-point range, but did not score at a high volume and his ability to create off the dribble appears limited for now. The athleticism suggests a high ceiling, but Smith will likely need some time to develop as a scorer at the NBA level.
*Smith is a very good rebounder for his size. He averaged 5.0 boards per game and nine times this season had seven or more in a game. Those skills were on display in the NCAA Tournament when he had a career-high nine rebounds to go along with 18 points, seven assists and a steal against Florida.
*He has a good feeling for shot selection. Sort of like Otto Porter does with the Wizards, Smith rarely racked up missed shots in college. Though he shot 45 percent from three, the most attempts he ever recorded in a game was three. That mentality could serve Smith well early in his career if he joins a good team like the Wizards where he will have to defer to others before carving his niche.
Fit with Wizards: Smith would fill a positional need because the Wizards have a hole at backup shooting guard. Jodie Meeks is expected to be back, but he wasn't effective for most of his first season in Washington. He's also going to be suspended for the first 19 games of the 2018-19 season.
Smith would give the Wizards some defense and athleticism. He would be similar to Kelly Oubre, Jr. in that regard, giving the Wizards a bench capable of locking down the perimeter. Smith could also potentially play some small forward in smaller lineups.
The problem with taking Smith at No. 15 is that he would not have a long-term path to the starting lineup. As with any guard they are considering for the 15th pick, the Wizards have to determine if it's worth taking a guy who will likely be relegated to their bench for years to come barring injury.
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