Zhaire Smith is Proving He Belongs in the NBA with Summer League Action
Zhaire Smith made his Summer League debut on Friday night to little fanfare. He, at times, looked out of place playing his brand of unselfish basketball against the Celtics in a losing effort where a teammate of his dropped 40 points in the debut.
Smith would finish day one with 7 points in 29 minutes of action and add two boards, a block and a steal to his total while his team lost 95 to 89.
On the second day of the back to back though, Zhaire Smith would show flashes of why he belongs in the NBA immediately and would start to validate his one and done top 10 in the draft status.
In a loss to the Lakers, 96 to 79, Zhaire played 24 minutes with 16 points, two rebounds, three steals and a myriad of highlight plays that would accentuate his brand of unselfish basketball.
The 76ers have plays in the playbook specifically for Zhaire Smith, like this inbound alley-oop combo that Smith finishes one-handed.
They aren't just focused on getting Zhaire Smith involved on the inbound. His ability to flash and cut will be utilized in the half court set and in transition, here is an example from Saturday night.
Here is Zhaire Smith getting the put back like he did so often at Texas Tech, it's plays like this that translate directly from college to the NBA. In fact, there is more room in the NBA down the lane so there will be even more opportunity for board crashing and rim shaking.
Smith got it done through traffic too, here is a finish at the rim that led to an and-one. He was perfect at the free throw line on the night.
After knocking down a jumper this pump fake was there.
There was just an endless stream of highlights that involved Zhaire who is the kind of player that will make a huge impact on the stat sheet and off of it. Here is a steal / assist coast to coast play from the phenom.
Even with all the dunks and steals, his most impressive play, to me, was this no look pass that drew two defenders off his target and allowed an east bucket.
I know this is Summer League and it doesn't matter but there are things we can take away from the two losses that make Zhaire Smith and his standing with the 76ers look really good.
First, he's playing a lot of minutes. The 76ers are taking a long hard look at the role that Zhaire will fill as a rookie, and I don't think it will be a small role. I am trying to temper my expectations but it's hard to do that when his dunking, flashing and defense are so NBA ready. The 76ers won't keep him off the court so his shot can develop like they did with Markelle Fultz. Smith is ready to help now.
Second thing we can draw from the first two games is that the 76ers already believe in Smith. This point piggy-backs off the first one but it's worth saying twice, Zhaire Smith will be a key part of the Summer League and the set plays they run through and to Zhaire Smith will allow him to continue playing big minutes in the regular season.
Smith will need to improve his rebounding numbers to stay on the court, especially his offensive boards, but he will definitely get his opportunity.
Zhaire and the 76ers get back on the Summer League court on Monday July, 9th at 4:30 pm on NBA TV.