Why Zhaire Smith Declaring for the NBA Draft Is Great for Everyone
As everyone expected, Zhaire Smith has declared for the 2018 draft.
Widely regarded as a lottery pick for the 2019 draft, Zhaire Smith will declare, without an agent, and test the market. He will be able to do everything in the draft process, but is eligible to return to Texas Tech until a June 11th deadline -- just 10 days before the NBA draft on June 21st.
Other dates to pay attention to will be the Draft Lottery selection on May 15th, the Combine on May 16th - 20th.
Initial projections, post NCAA tournament, have Zhaire Smith as a late First rounder, though there are also plenty of mock drafts that have Zhaire Smith as a lottery option in 2018. I have seen as high as 11th.
The teams aren't set for the NBA draft, so none of these mock drafts mean anything, but you can start to extrapolate a few things like average draft position and interest.
The interest is definitely apparent, as Smith is listed in every mock draft I pulled up today. But the average draft position, if you take out the highest and the lowest number like figure skating, is in the early 20s.
Is that high enough for Zhaire Smith to hire an agent and test the waters? The rookie pay scale based on draft position is pretty drastic. Getting drafted 14th vs 22nd could be the difference of about $3.2 million dollars total three years into the league. The number is even more drastic at pick 30, where you make about half as much money through three years.
Staying in school for a year for an extra $3.2 million dollars seems pretty logical.
By declaring, Zhaire Smith can go to the combine and take person workouts with teams just like everyone else.
I don't think there's any danger of Zhaire Smith declaring and then not getting drafted, which at that point would make him ineligible to return and put him overseas or on a G-League roster making closer to 25,000 a year. There is that possibility though where a raw player such as Smith goes un-drafted in favor of a more polished player that isn't as talented, like Grayson Allen.
Of the 67 draft eligible NCAA players last season only 37 were chosen in the 2017 NBA draft.
For Texas Tech though, this only brings a positive image to the program. Come as a three-star and blossom into an NBA ready, one-and-done player. Or, you can stick around for four years and turn yourself into an NBA prospect like Keenan Evans.
The publicity a name like Zhaire Smith brings on the recruiting trail is invaluable.
Here is a list of mock drafts and where they list Zhaire Smith:
Si.com has him going 22nd to the San Antonio Spurs.
They say: "After arriving at Texas Tech as an unheralded recruit, Smith’s emergence was quite the surprise, and averaging more than a block and a steal per game as a true freshman for a quality team was no small feat. The platform of the Red Raiders’ Elite 8 run certainly helped Smith from an NBA perspective, and his impressive quick-twitch athleticism and overall instincts give him a decent base. He can’t create much, if any, of his own offense right now, which adds a level of risk. But he’ll have a chance at the first round based on potential if he comes out. The Spurs would be able to get the most out of him."
Nbadraft.net has him going 19th to the Utah Jazz.
Tankathon.com has him going 11th to the Charlotte Hornets.
Bleacherreport.com has him going 26th to the Portland Trailblazers.
They say: "Despite being raw without a great deal of skill, Smith has become an interesting name in the draft discussion for his explosive athleticism, defensive playmaking and flashes of shot-making (18-40 3PT). He hasn't made a decision on whether to enter his name, but long-term potential could be enough in the 20s of a top-heavy draft that appears to lack depth."
Draftsite.com has him going in the 2nd round, pick 44 to the LA Clippers.
NBCsports.com has him going to the Brooklyn Nets with pick 27.
They say: "A high energy athlete that is a very good shot blocker for a wing. Shooting will need improvement, will also need to improve his ball handling at the next level."