Prospect Preview: Zhaire Smith

by Christopher Dempsey
Nuggets Insider


Class: Freshman

Ht: 6-foot-4

Wt: 198 pounds

2017-18 Stats: 11.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 1.8 apg


Zhaire Smith is a raw, athletic talent ready to be molded into a successful professional. He has come a long way from a lightly-recruited high school player in Texas to a lock to be a first-round pick all in a calendar year. In his one season in Lubbock, Texas, Smith was named to the All-Big 12 Newcomer Team and to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team.

“That’s crazy how things can change in one year,” said Smith after his pre-draft workout with the Nuggets. “But the hard work I put in, I’m kind of not surprised. But it’s a blessing to be in this position.”

Smith’s athleticism stands out.

In transition, he finishes with dunks as much as he can and runs the court like a track star. He’s almost always out in front of the fast break, ready to receive the pass and finish strong. Smith doesn’t always finish through resistance, but he does get fouled, and made 71 percent of his free throws.

Smith is an energetic player on both ends, and has the foundation to be a solid offensive player. He is a better shooter than he is getting credit for, shooting 51.5 percent in catch and shoot situations. Smith is also good off the dribble, making 42.3 percent of his pull-up jump shots. He has good off-ball movement, always ready to catch the ball and do something with it. And he still has plenty of room to grow as an offensive player. Smith’s Ball handling is okay, but could improve. He’ll improve finishing with both hands around the rim.

On the other end of the court, Smith shows enormous potential for being a great team defender. He adheres to the game plan, has active feet and possess the ability to recover when beaten and still block a shot. Smith averaged 1.1 steals and 1.1 blocks per game. He needs to continue to get better at fighting through screens and staying in front of the ball handler, but effort is almost never in question.


A team looking for a jolt of athleticism and in search of a difference maker on both ends of the court is a good fit for Smith. A team that runs relentlessly would also fit Smith – who thrives in up-tempo situations – well.

Christopher Dempsey: and @chrisadempsey on Twitter.

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