The Los Angeles Clippers have the luxury of having both the 12th and 13th picks in this year’s NBA Draft. With back to back picks, the Clippers can get a little bit more creative with the direction they go. However this draft, will mark the beginning of a new era for Doc RIvers’ group and that era should include a player that can jump out of the building.
With Chris Paul’s departure, Blake Griffin being traded, and Patrick Beverley’s injury-prone season, the Clippers should have been in full tank mode. Instead, Lou Williams had a near all-star season, the Clippers came a few games away from the playoffs and Doc Rivers even earned some coach of the year votes. Problem now is, the Clippers are in NBA purgatory. Not good enough to compete for a title, but not bad enough to get a high draft pick. The Clipper front office has to make moves to get the Clips out of purgatory and that all begins in the draft.
One way to get out of purgatory is to trade away the better players taking up cap space and their best player last year was Lou Williams. Even if Williams was to stay, he’s a sixth man and the Clippers still have a need at the shooting guard position, as Austin Rivers simply is not a viable option going forward.
Smith’s athleticism shone through at the NBA combine which had to have scouts buzzing at his possibilities. Pairing Smith with Pat Beverley could give the Clippers one of the best defensive backcourts in all of basketball. With the amazing ability coming from the rest of the league’s guards nowadays, it is just as important to have a backcourt that can defend the Damian Lillards and Steph Currys of the world.
Smith’s potential is also very high. With two picks, the Clippers have the option of going after a high risk high reward type player and I’m not sure any other player in this draft fits that description like Zhaire Smith. As stated previously, Zhaire Smith has the potential similar to Vic Oladipo, and what the Clippers don’t want to do is be the team that had two chances to pick Zhaire and missed both times.
Lastly, Zhaire Smith’s game is perfectly suited for hollywood. There’s no secret that the Clippers ticket isn’t exactly the hardest in town to get. Even with the recent team successes and Lakers’ failure, the Clippers still seem to be a second-place franchise operating in a city with plethora to do. With the Clippers likely headed back to the basement, it’s time they get back to their bread and butter of being an exciting team to watch. In the early-2000s, while trying to build a team that would eventually compete, the Clippers formed a team with the likes of Elton Brand, Lamar Odom, Darius Miles, Quentin Richardson, and Corey Maggette.
Those five guys were each very young but grew together and employed a high flying exciting brand of basketball that almost took them to the playoffs. Even though the Lakers were winning championships next door, the Clippers built their own local following simply by having an exciting brand of basketball. It’s time the Clips get back to that and having the guy with a 45” vertical leap would be just the beginning. I can already see Zhaire wearing his durag on the cover of Slam magazine now.
Zhaire Smith with the Clippers make too much sense for both parties and can be a way for Smith to develop into the player he’s meant to be with the right combination of veterans on the team and playing opportunity. Sporting News seems to believe in this destination as well as they have him going 13th paired up with Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Either way, Smith would be set to reach his potential in LA. I’m already exciting to hear TNT’s Ernie Johnson call out, “Next up in the 2019 NBA Slam Dunk Contest, for the Los Angeles Clippers Zhaire Smith!”