Heading into the 2017-18 season, no one saw Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith as a potential one-and-done. But after Smith burst onto the scene with a terrific freshman year, NBA draft boards are taking notice.
The Ringer has Smith as the No. 13 prospect in their 2018 NBA Draft prospect rankings, making him the third-highest Big 12 player behind Texas’ Mohamed Bamba (No. 6) and Oklahoma’s Trae Young (No. 7). The website lists Smith’s defense and athleticism as his main selling points, calling him “A defensive wing whose explosiveness could hang with the Monstars in ‘Space Jam’.”
Smith averaged 11.3 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.8 assists as a freshman, helping to lead Texas Tech to its first-ever Elite Eight finish. Smith showcased the best of his abilities in the Red Raiders’ NCAA Tournament run, including throwing down some of the most electrifying dunks of the tournament.
Smith announced two weeks ago that he was entering the NBA Draft without hiring an agent, leaving him the option to return to Texas Tech for his sophomore season. Many mock drafts have Smith going later in the first round, but The Ringer is much higher on the explosive freshman.
The Ringer compares Smith to current NBA players Danny Green, Wesley Matthews and Norman Powell, noting his athleticism, rebounding and ability to finish in the paint among his valuable attributes. However, The Ringer noted Smith’s “funky” shooting mechanics as a potential drawback, as well as noting that at 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, he may be too small to defend four positions in the NBA.