Summer League Takeaways | Zhaire Smith

by Lauren Rosen

Zhaire Smith entered 2018 Summer League as a rookie.

Smith left 2019 Summer League as a leader.

“I feel like I’m playing more calm,” Smith said in Las Vegas. “I know what intensity to bring.”

That balance of composure and strength shone through consistently in powerful performances from game to game at last week's MGM Resorts NBA Summer League. 

Smith averaged 12.4 points, 3.0 rebounds, 2.6 assists, and 1.4 steals while logging 26.0 minutes over his five Summer League games.

Starting in all five of those contests, Smith shot 48.0% from the field.

Perhaps most important during summer league, Smith developed a quick chemistry with teammates -- becoming an easy target for lobs and camera flashes.

“That’s my guy, I’m super proud of him,” Shake Milton said in Las Vegas. “He comes in and he works really hard. He’s a competitor.”

Smith took control in the Sixers' July 8th contest against the Oklahoma City Thunder, helping the team erase a 31-point deficit. Shooting 8-19 from the field, he finished with 18 points, five rebounds, three assists, and two steals.

While the squad fell just short in overtime, summer league head coach Connor Johnson admired Smith’s performance.

“I think the confidence thing is huge,” Johnson said. “I think he’s taken ownership of how he can affect the game.”

That confidence allowed Smith to set an example for his teammates, especially first-time summer league player Matisse Thybulle.

“I love playing with Z. He brings crazy energy on each end of the court,” Thybulle said. “He’s relentless on defense, and he’s fun to watch in transition.” 

Throughout the tournament, Smith took pride in his play on both sides of the ball, ultimately grabbing three steals in the Sixers' final game against Toronto.

“Every game, I feel like my confidence is getting better,” Smith said. “I wanted to prove I’m not forcing shots.” 

As encouraged as he was by summer league, Smith said he’ll be back in the gym almost immediately, eager to meet the challenge of the regular season.

 

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