Terquavion Smith: The hidden gem of the Sixers offseason

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PHILADELPHIA, PA – MAY 07: Shirts line the seats of the Wells Fargo Center for fans before the Eastern Conference Semifinal Game between the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers on May 07, 2018 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, PA. (Photo by Kyle Ross/Icon Sportswire)

There are plenty of reasons to be frustrated with the Philadelphia 76ers organization these days. With Joel Embiid’s championship window beginning to inch smaller, the public feud between James Harden and Daryl Morey dominating headlines, and another star point guard holding the organization hostage following the 22nd consecutive season in which the team had failed to make it past the second round- the vibes are understandably low.

However, the saying goes that it all comes down to how well you can work the margins. Daryl Morey and the Sixers have made this a priority, and there is one “marginal” addition that fans should begin to get familiar with-Terquavion Smith.

Who is Terquavion Smith?

A spunky 6-foot-4 guard originally from North Carolina, Terquavion Smith was signed to a two-way contract by the Sixers just minutes after this year’s NBA Draft.

No one would have batted an eye if Smith had heard his name called early in the second round or even late in the first. In fact, the North Carolina State product was labeled as a fringe first-round pick in last year’s NBA Draft before electing to return to school with the hopes of boosting his draft stock.

In his freshman season, Smith averaged 16.3 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 1.3 steals per game on an NC State team that went 11-21. After returning for his sophomore season, Smith saw his numbers increase to 17.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.1 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. NC State also took a stride forward, going 23-11 on the season and climbing as high as the 22nd-ranked team in the country, although they were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament in the first round at the hands of 6-seeded Creighton.

Terquavion Smith plays with an intriguing energy and admirable spunk. He can create his own shot, teases playmaking ability, and is effective on and off the ball. The combo guard is capable of taking over games when he gets hot and is not afraid to keep shooting when it isn’t falling. Smith is a capable defender and high-level athlete who has three-level scoring ability on his best days. While he can play out of control at times and will need to adjust to being effective in a lower-usage role, there is no denying the talent he possesses if he can put all the pieces together.

Why Wasn’t Smith Drafted?

The biggest red flag with Terquavion Smith is his slim frame. Despite measuring in at 6-foot-4, Smith weighs just 165 pounds and was unable to add any weight between his freshman and sophomore seasons. For what it is worth, based on last year’s listed measurements of NBA players, this would make Smith tied for second in the NBA for the lightest players. Trae Young, listed at 164 pounds, is the only player lighter, while former Sixers sniper Isaiah Joe is tied and also weighs in at 165 pounds.

Additionally, Smith’s efficiency took a dip in his second season. After shooting just 39.8% from the field overall and connecting on 36.9% of his three-point attempts as a freshman, Smith shot just 38.0% from the field and 33.6% from beyond the arc in year two.

His turnovers also grew from 1.7 to 2.2 per game, and while his assists grew from 2.1 to 4.1 per game, he still did not showcase the ability to run an offense at the level that many were hoping to see. While the growth of position-less basketball has made this less of a need, it is still clear he is a bit of a tweener when it comes to projecting Smith’s position.

Perhaps most notable was the addition of Jarkel Joiner to the NC State roster. The former Ole Miss product transferred to NC State last season and averaged 17.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.6 assists of his own on the year.

While Joiner was a huge reason why the team took a step forward this year, his overlapping strengths and weaknesses with Smith at times had the backcourt duo stepping on each other’s toes. For many stretches, it felt as if it was the two were taking turns running the show rather than truly maximizing each other. While at a different position and of significantly different styles of players, it is a similar criticism that is directed at Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics.

Joiner, who signed an Exhibit 10 deal with the Atlanta Hawks after going undrafted as well, also had a chance to face off against Smith and the Sixers at summer league. It should be noted that there were some verbal exchanges and intense defense between the two throughout. While this very well could have been good-natured and nothing more than two former teammates competing hard, I will say it was a much more intense matchup than I was braced for when flipping on a summer league matchup.

Smith’s Outlook With the Sixers

With Terquavion Smith currently on a two-way contract, it should not be expected for him to make a major impact in year one. But he is a high-caliber talent that is worth investing in and seeing what he can develop into in the long run.

There also is no harm in having the additional ball-handling ability and shot creation as James Harden’s future looks increasingly unlikely to involve the 76ers. While Harden’s ability and management of the situation is a conversation for another day, the Sixers still must replace the guy who averaged 8.6 minutes of individual time of possession last season, which ranked second in the NBA, trailing only Luka Doncic (9.1).

On the court, Smith brings an unconscious shooting ability and is a guy who can catch fire in a hurry. He is capable of providing a spark off the bench in a way that few on the Sixers roster have proven to do. His combination of shooting ability and shot creation has been difficult to find for the Sixers in recent years, and he is also a guy who could grow into an adequate playmaker over time. The NBA player comparison I keep circling back to for Terquavion Smith is Bones Hyland from a stylistic standpoint, although it should not be ruled out that Smith becomes the better player in the long run.

In addition, there is a joy that Smith plays with that is infectious and has been far too foreign to the Sixers organization. Similar to the way that Tyrese Maxey lights up every room he is in and can’t stop smiling while tearing up opponents, Terquavion Smith has some similar qualities. While the NC State product can also put this on display in a negative way when he gets frustrated, his energy and passion are something that stands out every time he takes the court.

Terquavion Smith’s Early Impact

While it is to be determined how much of an opportunity Terquavion Smith will receive, he has made the most of his chances thus far. In addition to shining in summer league and preseason, Smith is as involved as possible throughout the rest of the offseason as well. He was a regular participant at the Rico Hines runs, which are one of the more competitive offseason workouts across NBA circles. It also should be noted that Rico Hines followed Nick Nurse from Toronto to Philadelphia to remain a part of his coaching staff which should excite fans of player development.

“Terquavion Smith had a great summer,” Sixers assistant coach Rico Hines told Gina Mizell of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “I think he has a world of talent, and I think the sky’s the limit for him to continue to grow and get better. He’s a kid that had first-round talent if he would have come out, probably, a year ago.”

“Terq obviously is extremely talented,” Joel Embiid told Ky Carlin of SixersWire. “He comes in, he’s got a long way to go. He has a lot of energy and he wants to play and he wants to get involved and attack and attack and attack which is great, but he’s gonna learn as time goes, but we got a bunch of young, talented guys, and we just have to help them.”

Sixers Outlook Moving Forward

In the grand scheme of things, the addition of Terquavion Smith likely makes little impact on the Sixers’ outlook this season. Philadelphia enters the season with the 5th-highest odds to win the championship, the 3rd-best odds to win the Eastern Conference, and a season wins total over/under of 48.5 wins. With James Harden’s outlook still playing the greatest role in whether the Sixers can achieve these goals, there are, unfortunately, more questions than answers with this current roster.

However, in the long run, Smith is a great example of a valuable change within the organizational structure. The development of young players has been an area of the franchise in which there has not been enough attention paid in the “win-now” era of Sixers basketball. Putting young players on the proper developmental track pays massive dividends in the long run and sets the organization up for long-term success. No, guys like Terquavion Smith or Jaden Springer will not decide the Sixers’ success in the 2023 season. However, this could be a different answer if revisited five years from now.

As you look around the NBA, the success of teams with strong developmental programs is clear. As teams like the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets seem to always have the next rotation piece waiting in the depth chart, the Sixers have fallen behind in this category.

Hopefully, this is a sign of things changing from this standpoint, and Terquavion Smith is the perfect player to lead the charge in this organizational alteration.