At this time a year ago, there wasn’t a mock draft on the market projecting Zhaire Smith to hear his name called in the 2018 NBA Draft, much less in the first round.
Fast forward to mid-May, and not only is the former 3-star prospect set to join the NBA after just one season at Texas Tech, but his rising stock certainly doesn’t reflect his high school ranking, as he joined the Red Raiders last summer as the No. 194 prospect nationally. These days, not only is Smith the furthest thing from his placement as the nation’s No. 40 shooting guard recruit, but if things play out as Sporting News’ latest mock draft projects, he’ll become the first shooting guard selected in the draft, bearing in mind that Luka Doncic is being considered as a lead guard.
“Wing depth ought to be a priority for every NBA team, so the Clippers pick up a high-upside option here,” Sporting News’ Chris Stone said. “Smith is poised to become the first non-top 100 high school recruit to be a one-and-done since eligibility rules changed in 2006. Why?”
“Smith is an elite athlete with a great feel for the game, reflected by the 7.0 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.5 blocks he averaged per 40 minutes as a freshman. He’s still a raw offensive prospect, lacking much of a jump shot or the ability to create, but his foundation is exciting.”
If Smith does ultimately hear his name called with the No. 13 overall pick, not only would he become the first Red Raider drafted since Andre Emmett in 2004, but he would become the program’s first first round selection in more than two decades and just the second ever. Tony Battie being drafted No. 5 overall in 1997 is currently the only instance in which a Texas Tech talent was taken in the first round.
There’s more than enough reason to believe that changes on June 21 with Smith’s stock climbing across various mock drafts.
Yes, his offensive repertoire is a concern at this point in his development, but his athleticism and competitive nature provide a solid foundation for an NBA franchise to build upon as his ability to create for himself and others, and shooting touch round out.