In his introductory press conference on Monday, Daryl Morey offered perspective into how his–and now the Sixers’–mind works. Morey, regarding his perspective of making roster changes on a year-to-year basis, stated, “I start with championship probability, and basically work backwards from that and over a timeframe of one to three years, basically.” That roughly translates to: I will be working to build around the core that I have to win a championship in the next one to three years. So, for a team that lacks bench depth, Morey will be looking to strengthen the supporting cast to fit around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. When you make it clear you are trying to win a title, the implication is that you are not in the business of taking on projects. That puts the writing on the wall for players like Zhaire Smith.
Smith has exhibited subtle progression in his young, quiet career with the Sixers. He has spent significant time developing with the Delaware Blue Coats, Philadelphia’s G-League affiliate. But, a few factors have inhibited his ability to find any type of rhythm or opportunity in the NBA. His skillset and body type combination made for an awkward transition to the NBA after playing up positions based upon his athleticism at Texas Tech. He quite literally almost lost his life due to an allergic reaction. That near-death experience put him significantly behind his developmental curve. Smith has not been able to find his footing to this point in his career.
The Writing Is On The Wall For Zhaire Smith
The writing is on the wall for Smith, and it’s no secret. People in Smith’s camp have begun to question not if he has a future in Philadelphia, but where his future after Philadelphia will be, per source. Smith’s camp is pondering which teams around the NBA would be best fits for the athletic guard. On the surface, it is obviously hard to sell another team on Smith’s trade value, as he has barely played in the NBA despite being drafted three summers ago. However, there is some (albeit, small) trade value.
The unknown is often times more valuable than the known in the NBA, especially when it comes to young players. Draft picks are better trade assets before the draft because the receiving team has the freedom of making a pick. Once the pick is made, the identity of that pick makes the asset less valuable in trade talks.
That teams don’t have much to go on with Zhaire Smith is both a good and a bad for his trade value. It is a positive in that there is the allure of his upside. Teams have little evidence (very little playing time) to dictate whether or not he can become a serviceable NBA player. He is more or less an inexpensive high-ceiling flyer. Further, Smith will be looking to prove his value in a contract year. So, he will likely be more aggressive when given opportunity. The negative, of course, is that there is a name behind the asset. Everyone knows that that name will require a lot of work and development.
While Smith’s value alone will not warrant much of a return, he isn’t a sunk cost. Teams around the NBA with the long view in mind will have interest in adding him as part of bigger deals.