The NBA Draft’s early entry deadline is now in the rearview mirror. While that doesn’t mean that the field of draft-eligible players is completely finalized, there is more clarity surrounding the 2018 crop than ever before and full-fledged NBA Draft season is here.
Of course, the complete picture of the draft cannot take shape until the lottery on May 15 but, until then, time exists to catch up on who is in the draft (at least for now) and one highly intriguing prospect is Texas Tech swingman Zhaire Smith. From a casual observer’s perspective, Smith’s NBA Draft resume does not jump off the page, simply because he averaged only 11.3 points and 5.0 rebounds per game in a supporting role during his one year in Lubbock. Still, whispers are increasing that Smith could sneak into the lottery in late June and a deeper look backs up that notion as legitimate.
To put it plainly, Smith is an off-the-charts athlete. At 6’5 with a 6’10 wingspan, the freshman wing is more than capable of switching effectively on the defensive end and, at this moment, Smith is far more advanced as a defensive prospect than he is on the other end. His length and vertical athleticism play up in a big way whenever monitoring Smith on the defensive side of the ball and his motor was impressive during a relatively small sample at Texas Tech.
Of course, fans wouldn’t be electrified by a player with that simple make-up and Smith does bring a ton of offensive potential to the table. He is underdeveloped as a creator right now, largely due to ball-handling issues, but Smith clearly plays with a high basketball IQ, operating effectively off the ball and placing himself in the best possible position.
His “make or break” tool will arrive with the jumper and that has to be said. Smith did make 45 percent of his threes at the college level but that percentage came in only 40 attempts and, well, no one believes that he is already “there” as a shooter. His shooting form is encouraging, though, and Smith’s defensive and athletic tools provide a higher floor than many players with his relative offensive question marks.
It is exceedingly likely that the team drafting Zhaire Smith in the first round in June will not receive a complete and utter “star” on the offensive end of the floor. What that organization will land, however, is a tantalizing prospect with two-way potential at a position of great need at the NBA level and that combination appears to be resulting in a solid, mid-first round projection at this juncture.
Where does Smith land in this edition of our 2018 NBA mock draft? Let’s explore.