Zhaire Smith drew some lofty praise from his new coach before the 2018 NBA Draft.
The former Texas Tech star told ESPN Radio’s Michael Kaskey-Blomain that in his conversations with Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown before the draft, Brown compared him to former NBA Finals MVP and two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year Kawhi Leonard.
“He was comparing me to Kawhi,” Smith said. “He said ‘I really like your game.’ It’s just really interesting. He was just curious. He was like, ‘We’re going to make something happen.’ Apparently, he did.”
The Sixers traded No. 10 overall pick Mikal Bridges to Phoenix for Smith, the No. 16 pick, and an unprotected first-round pick in 2021 via Miami. It’s a deal that has already been praised by ESPN, and will earn more accolades if Smith makes good on the potential Brown saw in him.
Why does Smith think Brown went with the comparison to Leonard?
“Probably because Kawhi in college he was like a 4 and he turned him into a wing,” Smith said. “I guess he looked forward to turning me into a shooting guard. And he just liked me for defense, too.”
Smith averaged 11.3 points and 5 rebounds in his freshman season at Texas Tech.