What Zhaire Smith being inactive for season opener means for the Sixers


The Sixers’ season is almost underway as the team prepares for their first game against the Boston Celtics. The final roster has been announced and there were not many surprises, though there was an unexpected announcement. Zhaire Smith will begin the season on the inactive list.

What does that mean?

According to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team is required to present a list of no more than 12 active players listed per game. Each team is normally allowed to leave up to three players off the active list, placing them on the inactive list.

So in other words, the Sixers have announced that Zhaire Smith will not be playing in the season opener. This could easily change in future games but at least to start the season, look for Smith to be an observer.

How did we get here?

This is disappointing but not really surprising. Even though Smith was the 16th pick in the 2018 draft, he was expected to be a raw project coming out. Smith has also had a complicated start to his career.

An early injury followed by a serious allergic reaction held Smith out until late March of last season. Without the ability to even get on the practice court, Smith had his growth stunted which led to his less than stellar performance in the preseason.

The Matisse Thybulle effect

One reason the Sixers do not need to rely on Zhaire Smith right now is the rise of rookie Matisse Thybulle. Taking the team by storm, Thybulle seems ready to exceed typical expectations for the 20th overall pick.

By doing so, Thybulle has made Smith nearly expendable as both are expected to become 3-and-D players. That being said, in today’s league, you can’t have enough so we should see Smith on the court sooner or later.

Where does he go from here?

Expect Coach Brown to bring Smith along slowly to assure development as we can either hope for him to eventually become either a key contributor or a valuable trade piece.

Smith is clearly a talented player who just needs to refine his game. Learning from the pine and in practice will help Smith for now down the road the G-League may be an opportunity to build his game.

It is possible that he could be involved in a trade but I don’t think that’s likely until closer to the trade deadline if at all. If he is traded, I expect him to be a secondary piece in a trade for a household name (e.g. Bradley Beal or Devin Booker).

I feel if there is a coach who will get the most out of Smith it’s Brett Brown. The most impressive aspect of Coach Brown is his talent development. I see a lot of potential in Smith and hope he can reach it with the Sixers, but time will tell.

Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports