Zhaire Smith

Fellow Rookies Pick Ayton, Sexton As RoY Favorites

For the 10th time in 12 years, John Schuhmann of NBA.com got the opportunity to ask the NBA’s incoming crop of rookies a series of questions related to their fellow draftees.

Historically, the NBA rookies haven’t been particularly clairvoyant when it comes to their predictions — they haven’t accurately identified a Rookie of the Year winner since Kevin Durant in 2007/08. Still, it’s an interesting exercise, and one that occasionally results in a dead-on prediction, like when last year’s rookie class named Donovan Mitchell the steal of the 2017 draft.

Here are a few of the most interesting responses from this year’s rookies about the 2018/19 class:

  • Deandre Ayton (Suns) and Collin Sexton (Cavaliers) are viewed as the co-favorites for the Rookie of the Year award this season, with each player earning 18% of the vote. No other rookie had more than a 9% share of the vote.
  • Opinions were a little more divided on which player would have the best long-term NBA career, with Wendell Carter Jr. (Bulls) narrowly earning that title by receiving 13% of the vote. Interestingly, reigning EuroLeague MVP Luka Doncic (Mavericks) wasn’t picked by a single player for this question.
  • No. 48 overall pick Keita Bates-Diop (Timberwolves) was named the steal of the 2018 NBA draft by his fellow rookies, edging out 14th overall pick Michael Porter Jr. (Nuggets) and 18th overall pick Lonnie Walker (Spurs).
  • Trae Young (Hawks) is widely considered the best shooter and play-maker in this year’s class. Jevon Carter (Grizzlies) earned the most votes for best rookie defender, while Zhaire Smith (Sixers) is viewed as the most athletic rookie.
  • Be sure to check out Schuhmann’s full piece for the rest of the rookie survey results.

Zhaire Smith Undergoes Foot Surgery

AUGUST 10: Smith underwent surgery on Thursday evening to repair the Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal in his left foot, the Sixers announced in a press release. The club intends to update Smith’s recovery timetable at a later date.

AUGUST 7: An MRI on the injured left foot of Sixers rookie Zhaire Smith has revealed a Jones fracture, reports Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports. According to Charania, Smith – who hurt his foot on Monday during a developmental camp in Las Vegas – will see another specialist in Philadelphia, but is expected to undergo surgery later this week.

It’s a tough blow for a 76ers team that has had bad luck with injuries to top draft picks in recent years. Former third overall pick Joel Embiid didn’t appear in a regular season game until his third year in the NBA, 2016’s No. 1 selection Ben Simmons missed his entire rookie season, and 2017’s top pick Markelle Fultz played just 14 games last year.

While Smith won’t enter the NBA faced with the same expectations that Embiid, Simmons, and Fultz had, he was Philadelphia’s top selection in the 2018 draft. The former Texas Tech forward, the No. 16 pick, was acquired by the Sixers on draft night along with a future first-rounder in a trade that sent 10th overall pick Mikal Bridges to Phoenix.

The Sixers likely won’t announce a timeline for Smith’s recovery until after he undergoes surgery, but the team has been very cautious with injuries to key young players. While that doesn’t necessarily mean we won’t see Smith at all during his rookie year, a similar injury sidelined Simmons for a full season in 2016/17, as Derek Bodner of The Athletic notes (via Twitter).

Even without Smith, the Sixers figure to have a good amount of depth on the wing, with J.J. Redick, Robert Covington, and Wilson Chandler all in line for major roles.

Atlantic Notes: Z. Smith, Monroe, Nets, Irving

Sixers rookie guard Zhaire Smith suffered a left foot injury during a development camp in Las Vegas on Monday, the team announced this morning in a press release. According to the club, the 16th overall pick is headed back to Philadelphia for further evaluations on his injured foot.

The Sixers’ announcement doesn’t offer up a preliminary diagnosis and is short on specifics, so the severity of Smith’s foot injury isn’t clear. Training camps will begin in less than two months, but if Smith’s recovery is a short-term one, he could still be ready to go by the time the preseason begins.

Here are a few more odds and ends from across the Atlantic division:

  • The Raptorsdeal with Greg Monroe signals that the team appears to be “punting on the concept of elite room protection,” according to Eric Koreen of The Athletic, who suggests that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Meanwhile, Doug Smith of The Toronto Star views the decision to sign a veteran like Monroe over an untested developmental player as a reflection of the Raptors’ title aspirations.
  • During their rebuilding process, the Nets have showed a knack for turning marginal players into reliable contributors. Net Income of NetsDaily wonders if Treveon Graham could become Brooklyn’s next project of that sort, following in the footsteps of players like Joe Harris and Spencer Dinwiddie.
  • The 2018/19 season has yet to begin, but oddsmakers are already looking ahead to 2019 player movement. As NBC Sports Boston relays, the Celtics and Knicks have been installed by one bookmaker as the early favorites for Kyrie Irving‘s free agency.

Sixers Sign First-Rounder Zhaire Smith

The Sixers have signed first-round pick Zhaire Smith, according to the team’s website.

Smith, whose rights were acquired in a draft-night trade with Suns, will receive approximately $2.6MM in his first season.

The 6’5” swingman was selected No. 16 overall after playing one season at Texas Tech, where he averaged 11.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.1 BPG and 1.1 SPG in 28.4 MPG.

Smith is unlikely to receive significant playing time in his first season for one of the Eastern Conference’s top clubs. He will play on the Sixers’ summer league team.

Lowe’s Latest: James, Thunder, RFAs

The Lakers may not necessarily need a star in place to lure LeBron James, Zach Lowe of ESPN writes in a massive round-up of free agency notes. If James were to sign in Los Angeles alongside the team’s existing young stars and plethora of cap space they’d immediately become one of the league’s most appealing destinations for the next 12 months.

The comment comes in response to the notion that the Lakers are growing desperate to acquire Kawhi Leonard from the Spurs prior to James’ opt-in deadline tomorrow at 10:59pm CST. As things stand, both the Celtics and Sixers appear poised to offer better packages than what Lowe speculates L.A. might.

The King’s decision will have a ripple effect on the rest of the league, especially the Eastern Conference. If the Raptors, for example, were to watch James head to the West, it would make keeping their current core in place more appealing considering that their path to the Finals would be hypothetically easier.

Here’s a taste of the rest of Lowe’s findings:

  • If the Thunder can convince Paul George to return to Oklahoma City, it will be a monumental victory for general manager Sam Presti. If he leaves, the club would be forced to at least think about blowing the current squad up and trading Russell Westbrook.
  • Only six teams have notable amounts of potential cap space and half of those – the Hawks, Bulls and Kings – are telling teams that they’re interested in using that space to absorb bad contracts and pick up assets.
  • It’s unclear that there will be much of a market for Derrick Favors beyond, potentially the Mavs. It may make more sense for the big man to stay with the Jazz after finally starting to click alongside Rudy Gobert in Quin Snyder‘s offense last season.
  • The two best candidates to sign a qualifying offer this summer and approach next summer as unrestricted free agents are Celtics guard Marcus Smart and Trail Blazers center Jusuf Nurkic. Lowe writes that Nurkic turned down a “rich” four-year extension last fall but might have a hard time finding a team willing to offer more than the mid-level exception this summer.
  • It stands to reason that Aaron Gordon, Zach LaVine and Jabari Parker will yield significant offers from the Magic, Bulls and Bucks  respectively but none of those teams have reason to offer a max contract right away.
  • The Pacers could make life harder for the Magic by putting together an offer in the $20MM range for Gordon. Lowe writes that there has been “mild discontent for years” about Gordon’s role in Orlando’s offense.
  • The Nuggets tried “feverishly” to trade for a second first-round pick last Thursday in the hopes of nabbing Zhaire Smith. Denver’s 2019 first-rounder was on the table in those talks.

For more free agency notes, including some potential contract extension candidates and the reasoning behind Nikola Jokic not getting a player option in the fifth year of his new deal with the Nuggets, check out the full feature at ESPN.

Sixers Notes: Fultz, Smith Trade, GM Candidate

The Sixers’ decision to draft two guards in the first round could mean Markelle Fultz won’t be part of the future in Philadelphia, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The team acquired swingman Zhaire Smith in a trade with the Suns and took point guard Landry Shamet at No. 26, but coach Brett Brown said the selections have nothing to do with Fultz and the difficulties he encountered during his rookie year.

After being the first player taken in the 2017 draft, Fultz missed much of the season with a shoulder injury and an unexplained problem with his shooting motion. Fultz is still limited to “foundational-type” shooting drills, according to Pompey, and probably won’t join the Sixers for summer league.

The front office insists it isn’t trying to trade Fultz, but Pompey cites a report of internal discussions about moving him, along with the two first-rounders, in an effort to obtain a top five pick. Several league sources also say Fultz was available for a deal, but his performance as a rookie makes it difficult to get anything of value in return.

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated offers an inside look at the draft night deal that sent Smith to Philadelphia and Mikal Bridges to Phoenix. The Sixers turned down several offers from the Suns prior to the deal coming together just before Phoenix made its selection at No. 16. Bridges had a private workout in Philadelphia and Smith participated in two group workouts, and the Sixers considered them “1A” and “1B” as prospects who might be available with the 10th pick. When Smith fell all the way to 16th, Philly reconsidered, seeing an opportunity to stock up on future picks.
  • Brown would like to see the Sixers hire someone already in the organization as the next GM, Pompey writes in a separate story. The top internal candidate is believed to be Marc Eversley, who serves as vice president of player personnel. “I don’t think we need an overhaul,” Brown said. “We’re in deep on this. We have ways we do business. So somewhere out there, we’ll find the balance of those things that I said, and I’m sure that I’ll have a voice in the selection of the next general manager.”
  • Brown compares Smith to Spurs star Kawhi Leonard, another player who was traded on draft night, Pompey notes in another piece. Leonard is Smith’s favorite player and could wind up being a teammate if the cards fall right for the Sixers. “I think somebody said we have the same shooting mechanics,” Smith said. “So I try to do whatever move he does to get his shot off. I try to learn that.”

Atlantic Rumors: Saric, Sixers, Celtics, Knicks

The Sixers didn’t move up in the lottery in large part because they refused to trade Dario Saric, Ian Begley of ESPN tweets. Philadelphia tried to get into the top five of the draft but multiple teams indicated the Sixers had no interest in giving up a forward who averaged 14.6 PPG 6.7 RPG and 2.6 APG last season, Begley adds. Philadelphia wound up staying put at No. 10 and drafted Villanova’s Mikal Bridges, then dealt his draft rights to the Suns for Texas Tech guard Zhaire Smith and a future first-rounder.

In other draft news involving Atlantic Division teams:

  • With coach and GM Brett Brown running the show, the Sixers were very active in the second round. They traded the No. 38 pick to the Pistons and the No. 39 pick to the Lakers, then parlayed two late picks to move into the Mavericks’ No. 54 spot, where they drafted SMU guard Shake Milton. The Sixers picked up three future second-rounders and cash in the first two second-round deals. “I feel like the trades that we made to acquire future picks and to move up closer to somebody that we really like like Shake Milton, I think that the room was fantastic in organizing and allowing us to do that,” Brown said during a press conference.
  • The Celtics decided against trading for a second-round pick after drafting enigmatic Texas A&M big man Robert Williams with the No. 27 pick, Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald reports. “We don’t need more young players, really,” GM Danny Ainge told Bulpett and other media members. “We feel good about adding one positional player that has something that we don’t have, that does something that we don’t have.”
  • Knicks GM Scott Perry doesn’t expect the team to be “highly active” in free agency, Begley reports in a separate tweet. That’s not surprising, considering the team’s salary commitments for next season. Kyle O’Quinn gave them a little more breathing room by deciding to decline his option but unless Enes Kanter also chooses to decline his $18.62MM option, they’ll be operating over the cap.

Suns Acquire Mikal Bridges From Sixers

After selecting Deandre Ayton with the first overall pick to kick off the draft, the Suns have agreed to acquire another top-10 prospect. According to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link), Phoenix has reached a deal with the Sixers that will send No. 10 overall pick Mikal Bridges to the Suns, with No. 16 pick Zhaire Smith heading to Philadelphia.

In addition to Smith, the Sixers will receive the Heat’s 2021 first-round pick from Phoenix, tweets Charania. The trade is now official.

The Suns were just about to select Donte DiVincenzo when a call came through from Philadelphia about a trade, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7.

By moving from the 1oth pick to the 16th, the Sixers will save about $1MM in cap space, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), who notes that the extra money will be helpful if Philly decides to make a max offer in free agency.

The first-rounder from Miami will remain unprotected, according to Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated (Twitter link). A 2021 selection could be even more valuable if the NBA does away with its one-and-done rule that year, since that year’s top high-school seniors and college freshman could both be draft-eligible for the first time.

[RELATED: NBA: Draft Eligibility Rules Could Change By 2021]

The trade puts an unexpected twist on what was nearly a storybook night for Villanova’s Bridges, who hails from the Philadelphia area. He and his mother both seemed thrilled at the prospect of having him join the Sixers. Instead, Bridges heads west to join a rebuilding franchise in Phoenix.

Arthur Hill contributed to this post.

Michael Porter Jr. Slips To Nuggets At No. 14

In one of the major surprises of draft night so far, Michael Porter Jr. – who was once considered a frontrunner to be the No. 1 pick of 2018 – nearly slipped out of the lottery, going to the Nuggets at No. 14.

According to Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter), Denver strongly considered selecting Zhaire Smith before deciding to roll the dice on Porter.

Word began circulating hours before the draft that Porter could slide out of the top 10 due to concerns about the long-term health of his back and hip. Many teams were said to be put off by a medical report on Porter earlier this week.

As Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders tweets, at least one team’s doctors believe that Porter will require surgery on his back, and the possibility that he’d miss most or all of his rookie season was apparently enough to scare several clubs away. According to TNT’s David Aldridge (Twitter link), the Wizards wouldn’t have taken Porter at No. 15 if Denver had passed.

Still, Porter makes for an interesting gamble for the Nuggets, who already have several core building blocks in place. He’ll join Jamal Murray, Gary Harris, and Nikola Jokic as long-term cornerstones in Denver.

Draft Rumors: Top 6, Bulls, Kings, Sixers, Suns

The Mavericks, Bulls, Cavaliers, and Clippers are among the teams still exploring the possibility of moving up in the draft lottery, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). Wojnarowski adds that the Sixers‘ pick (No. 10) is in play for teams targeting Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Wojnarowski currently believes that Deandre Ayton (Suns), Marvin Bagley III (Kings), Luka Doncic (Hawks), Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba (Mavericks), and Trae Young (Magic) are the most likely selections (Twitter link). Interestingly, the Grizzlies are the only team Wojnarowski doesn’t mention in his rundown, suggesting the No. 4 pick is still the most likely selection at the top to be traded.

If the top six plays out like that and Chicago doesn’t trade up, the Bulls would likely opt for Wendell Carter Jr. over Michael Porter Jr., tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune.

Here are several more rumors worth passing along as draft night nears…

  • Kings beat reporter James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area (Twitter link) is also getting the vibe out of Sacramento that Marvin Bagley III is the club’s likely choice at No. 2.
  • Sam Amick of USA Today (Twitter link) is hearing some buzz linking Zhaire Smith to the Sixers at No. 10.
  • Although the Heat are exploring opportunities to trade into the first round of tonight’s draft, it’s hard to imagine the club completing a deal for a first-round pick unless it can shed a veteran salary, tweets Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.
  • The Suns, who hold Miami’s pick at No. 16, are eyeing Donte DiVincenzo, Zhaire Smith, Jalen Brunson, Aaron Holiday, Lonnie Walker, Troy Brown, Elie Okobo, and Landry Shamet at that spot, per John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 (Twitter link).
  • NBA teams have been impressed with Michael Porter Jr. in interviews, but the club that picks him will have to be “ultra-cautious” with his health, according to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, who suggests (via Twitter) that sitting Porter for a good chunk of 2018/19 is a real possibility.