It was a narrow contest between the pedigreed Collin Sexton out of Alabama and Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith for the number 12 spot on our community draft board, but a late night surge pushed Smith to the top. Smith is one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft, if only due to his rapid ascent over the past year. After starting as an unheralded recruit - not even ranked in ESPN‘s top 100 - he now finds himself working out for teams with potential lottery picks.
Upon first blush, one can see why teams are enchanted by Smith’s measurables. Wings are en vogue at the moment, and at 6’5” with a 6’10” wingspan, he certainly fits the part. He boasts outrageous leaping ability, frequently skying for putbacks over unaware defenders. Those skills translated decently on the glass too, where he averaged seven boards per-40 minutes. Some of those guard/wing college rebound stats don’t have as much bearing in the NBA, but I think Smith has enough pop to actually be a weapon there, particularly on offensive rebounds.
The tenacious way he attacks the rim is obvious, but he also seems adept at finding pockets of space for his teammates to find him. One imagines his athleticism will bode well on cuts to the basket where he can go nuclear for a powerful slam or go for a quick jam into the tin. He guarded almost all positions while at Texas Tech too, using his speed and length to stick with people off the dribble, around screens and bodying up men with his length. He’ll need to fill out his frame, but the fact he only just turned 19 this month bodes well for his physical and talent development.
Of course, there’s a reason with all these drool-worthy traits that Smith is still considered a late lottery pick. His shooting remains suspect, as he shot 45% on threes but that came on only 40 attempts all year. Coaches will have to drill a greater shooting instinct into him to unlock his full potential as a 3-and-D player in the NBA. Really, there’s few shooting stats at all to go off of for the kind of numbers scouts like to see. He attempted 3.4 free throws per game, not a bad percentage for an iffy creator/ball handler, and converted 71.7% of those. His stroke is economical, short and compact, albeit a tad on the slow side. NBA coaches will likely want to speed up that release so he can capably rifle shots off while running around screens or in what limited pull-up game he projects to have when he starts his career.
Overall, there seem to be plenty of question marks surrounding Zhaire Smith’s spectacular ascendance up draft boards after emerging from anonymity. Personally, I get some trepidation, but he flashes far too many tools for me to overlook taking a shot on a guy who didn’t even have that high of usage as a college player. Get him under the wing of an NBA developmental team and he seems like someone with plenty of still-untapped potential. If Smith were to fall to Milwaukee, he’s the guy I’d be most excited about drafting.
Brew Hoop Community Draft Board Rankings
1. Deandre Ayton - C, Arizona (The Stepien Profile)
2. Luka Doncic - PG, Real Madrid (The Stepien Profile)
3. Marvin Bagley III - C, Duke (The Stepien Profile)
4. Jaren Jackson Jr. - PF/C, Michigan State (The Stepien Profile)
5. Mohamed Bamba - PF/C Texas (The Stepien Profile)
6. Michael Porter Jr. - PF, Mizzou (The Stepien Profile)
7. Trae Young - PG, Oklahoma (The Stepien Profile)
8. Mikal Bridges - SF/PF, Villanova (The Stepien Profile)
9. Wendell Carter Jr. - PF/C, Duke (The Stepien Profile)
10. Miles Bridges - SF/PF, Michigan State (The Stepien Profile)
11. Lonnie Walker IV - SG, Miami (The Stepien Profile)
12. Zhaire Smith - SG, Texas Tech (The Stepien Profile)
My Pick for the #13 Spot on the Community Draft Board is:
This poll is closed
Kevin Knox - SF/PF, Kentucky
Collin Sexton - PG, Alabama
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander - PG, Kentucky
Robert Williams - C, Texas A&M
Troy Brown - SG, Oregon
Keita Bates-Diop - PF, Ohio State
Other (Please leave in the comments)