Former Texas Tech basketball star Zhaire Smith made his summer league debut with the 76ers Friday night in Las Vegas.
Zhaire Smith took to the court in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform for the first time Friday night in the Las Vegas summer league. The No. 16 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft had a steady performance with seven points, two rebounds, two assists and a steal in the 76ers 95-89 loss to Boston.
Still adjusting to life as a shooting guard, Smith looked at times like he was thinking more about his game than simply playing instinctually and allowing his unreal athleticism take over as he did at Texas Tech. Offensively, Smith showed signs of uncertainty to be expected of a player that played primarily in the paint in college and high school.
Of his three made baskets, two came on layups (including his first bucket which came off a nice back-cut from the top of the key) while the other was a line-drive jumper. Smith went 3-7 from the field as his jump shot continues to be a work-in-progress.
"According to the Philadelphia Inquirer “In the beginning, he didn’t move well without the ball and was indecisive on offense. However, he was a pest on defense and had one steal to go with two assists.Smith said he needs to work on not shifting while in the corner and keeping adequate spacing on the floor. But after he settled down, the 19-year-old made a couple of athletic layups…”"
It will be the maturation of his offensive game that will be the focus of Zhaire Smith’s offseason and the early portions of his career. He has been working diligently in the practice gym on his jumper but nothing compares to game reps, even if they come in the summer league.
The key will be for Smith to develop a quicker release on his shot. In the NBA, contested jumpers are the norm as shooting off the dribble is a must.
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At Tech, the majority of Smith’s 40 three-point attempts came on wide-open looks that afforded him time to set his feet and line up his shot. That will not be a luxury afforded him in the NBA.
Fortunately for Zhaire Smith, the Sixers are not asking him to be a dominant offensive force this year. His role will be to play lock-down defense and take care of the basketball while using his athleticism to stuff the stat sheet.
"Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia says, “In summer league, we should see his unique athleticism on full display. For the Sixers, any success as a three-point shooter or signs that he has the tools to excel as an NBA two-guard would be a bonus.”"
Texas Tech fans can catch Zhaire and the 76ers on ESPN at 7:30 CT tonight as they take on the Lakers. Also in the NBA’s Utah Summer League, former Red Raider Zach Smith posted 10 points in three games with the Atlanta Hawks including seven points in his first game against Memphis on July 2nd.