Texas Tech freshman Zhaire Smith as made it official and declared for the 2018 NBA Draft.
I am excited to say that I am going to enter my name in NBA Draft without an agent. I would like to see where I stand after my freshman year. I would like to Thank coach Beard, my parents, and the best fans in college basketball #RedRaiderNation
— Zhaire (@zhaire_smith) April 4, 2018
Smith makes it clear that he’s not hiring an agent at this time, which means that he would be eligible to return to Texas Tech. Zhaire has until June 11, 2018 to decide to stay in the draft or return to Texas Tech.
SI’s Jeremy Woo wrote about Smith’s potential and the risk involved with his decision:
Bursting onto the radar late means less time for the NBA to get acquainted with you and figure out your game. That level of uncertainty is unhelpful to evaluators, but conversely a boon to how prospects end up being perceived.
A good example here is Hamidou Diallo, who tested and came back to Kentucky after arriving in Lexington in the middle of last season, choosing to play his freshman year out in the fall rather than go “none-and-done,” so to speak. It ended up being a difficult choice: Diallo’s lack of ball-handling skills and overall raw talent level now tend to be viewed in a less exciting light, after an up-and-down year in the SEC in which it became clear the only thing to sink your teeth into about his game was his freak athleticism. Smith is younger than Diallo and is now in a similar boat, given what we know he does well (run, jump, force turnovers) and doesn’t (create his own shot, score with volume generally). It could certainly break both ways for him, but the point is that the interest level is there to justify leaving. It would likely be worth it.
Most mock drafts have Zhaire in that mid-range to late first round projection and it is largely based off of Zhaire’s athleticism. As Woo notes, Zhaire does have the ability to create offense around the rim, Zhaire doesn’t really create for himself offensively. In fact, taking a look at Hoop-Math, 64% of Zhaire’s shots are at the rim and 48% of his 2-point shots were assisted, meaning he wasn’t creating his own offense.
Either way, this is a win-win for Zhaire and I personally hope nothing but the best for him regardless of his decision. A fantastic freshman season with unbelievable highlights was worth it on my end.