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Liberty Ballers Community Big Board: Zhaire Smith selected #14

The lottery is complete.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-East Regional-Purdue vs Texas Tech Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

The lottery, and thus, our 2018 Community Big Board, has drawn to a close with the selection of Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith at #14. The Sixers brought Smith (and Kevin Knox) back for second workouts on Tuesday, so he is definitely a guy on Philadelphia’s radar with the 10th overall pick. It’s safe to say that Zhaire did not fail to show what he is capable of doing athletically on the court in front of Sixers decision-makers.

Smith is an interesting case where his selection in the draft will be much more about projecting his potential moving forward than based upon his college production. A three-star recruit heading into his freshman season in Lubbock, Smith is a 6’4” guard who played out of position as a power forward and occasional small-ball center for the Red Raiders. His averages of 11.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, and 1.8 assists don’t exactly scream NBA lottery pick.

However, there’s no question Smith has the athleticism to succeed at the NBA level. At the draft combine, he recorded the second-fastest three quarter sprint (3.05 seconds, a hundredth off top dog Josh Okogie), and was a half inch off the top max vertical leap (rising up at 41.5”). Zhaire has the rare quality where it looks like he is floating through the air when he jumps, whether it’s to finish off a 360 slam or blocking an opponent’s shot into the 4th row.

Smith was Texas Tech’s top defender, guarding the opposition’s best player regardless of position. In addition to the athleticism, he has a good wingspan (6’9.75”), terrific reaction times, quick hands, and strong defensive instincts. Smith is the perfect starter kit for an NBA coach hoping to mold an elite, switching perimeter defender.

What Smith will become offensively is more of a mystery. Zhaire shot 45.0% from three last season, but on only 40 total attempts, and he has slightly weird mechanics with a long release that makes shooting off the dribble a challenge. Moreover, Smith’s ball-handling could use a lot of work as he wasn’t asked to get many reps in that area given his role at Texas Tech.

Overall, Smith won’t be asked to do much more initially than be a defensive ace, with the hope that the shot can be refined to the point where he’s a successful spot-up shooter. While he will be a very effective slasher and finisher around the basket, Zhaire shouldn’t be expected to have a well-rounded offensive game for quite some time, if ever. Still, given his raw athleticism and the fact that Smith just turned 19 earlier this month, there’s a lot to love about the highly effective two-way force he could become.

With Smith’s selection, our 2018 Liberty Ballers Community Big Board is complete. It’s highly unlikely Thursday night’s NBA Draft will go down the same way, but it was also highly unlikely the Sixers would enter the draft without a general manager because the previous one’s wife bashed players and revealed sensitive medical information on secret Twitter burner accounts, so you never know! Enjoy these last two days of non-stop draft rumors, before we kick off the non-stop free agency rumors.

Liberty Ballers Community Big Board:

  1. Luka Dončić - PG/SG, Real Madrid
  2. DeAndre Ayton - C, Arizona
  3. Jaren Jackson Jr. - PF/C, Michigan State
  4. Marvin Bagley III - PF, Duke
  5. Michael Porter Jr. - F, Missouri
  6. Mo Bamba - C, Texas
  7. Trae Young - PG, Oklahoma
  8. Mikal Bridges, SF, Villanova
  9. Wendell Carter Jr., PF/C, Duke
  10. Miles Bridges, F, Michigan State
  11. Lonnie Walker, SG, Miami
  12. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, G, Kentucky
  13. Kevin Knox, F, Kentucky
  14. Zhaire Smith, F, Texas Tech

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