A look at draft prospect Zhaire Smith and his potential fit with the San Antonio Spurs.
With five perimeter players potentially hitting free agency this July, the San Antonio Spurs may look to add a wing with the No. 18 Pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. Could guard/forward Zhaire Smith be the answer?
Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith is an explosive two-way swingman with tremendous potential on both sides of the floor. In his Freshman campaign, Smith lit the NCAA on fire with his incredible energy and motor by creating plays without commanding the ball. While he’s shown the ability to initiate an offense, he does a great job of complementing those around him by making extra passes and staying active off the ball.
Similar to San Antonio’s own Dejounte Murray, Smith is already considered an excellent rebounder for his position due to his fantastic timing and bounce. One aspect of his game that stood out under head coach Chris Beard was his constant hustle on the offensive glass. His ability to leap over and around defenders would often resulting in wicked putback dunks at Texas Tech.
Putback dunks aren’t the end-all, be-all for a wing player, but it’s a unique skill that could translate well for a team that struggled offensively throughout the year. His putbacks are a testament to his constant involvement in a half-court setting. Many wings will remain stagnant on the perimeter as a play develops in hopes of receiving a catch-and-shoot three-pointer. Not only does Smith knock down the outside shot at a consistent percentage, but he’s in constant motion off the ball to create looks for himself and others.
In addition to his halfcourt game, Smith could provide a much-needed spark in the open court for San Antonio. They struggled on the fastbreak, ranking 23-of-30 in fastbreak points per game during the 2017-2018 season. Adding Smith to the team provides a threat alongside Murray, who has proven his ability to initiate offense in transition.
In 37 games as a Red Raider, Smith put up an average of 11.3 points per game on 55.6 percent shooting. His perimeter shot wasn’t a major aspect of his game, but he shot a commendable 45 percent on 40 attempts from behind the arc. The freshman worked his way up the rotation into a starting role in the latter end of the season.
The 18-year old gave a fantastic showing in the 2018 NBA Draft Combine where he recorded astonishing numbers in the Max Vertical Leap (41.50 inches), Standing Vertical Leap (33.00) and Three Quarter Sprint time (3.05 seconds.) Potentially more impressive than his athleticism is his work ethic, which impressed scouts and coaches throughout his emergence as a prospect.
In a league where versatility is key for wing players, Smith can play multiple positions due to his strength and length. Similar to forward Kyle Anderson, Smith is a moldable prospect who could reach new heights with the right coaching and direction.
After some work with shooting coach Chip Engelland and some time in the league, Smith could become a valuable rotation player for the San Antonio Spurs.