Philadelphia 76ers: Glenn Robinson III for Zhaire Smith is a win-win

(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

With a desperate need for defense, offense, and energy coming off the bench, the Philadelphia 76ers’ best option may be to ship Zhaire Smith to the Golden State Warriors for Glenn Robinson III.

When the Philadelphia 76ers traded the draft rights to Mikal Bridges, knowingly breaking the hearts of every fan in the City of Brotherly Love and Bridges’ own mother for good measure, it was for two reasons and two reasons alone: To add a young, defensive guard, and to fortify their then-expansive war chest with yet another high-profile draft asset for a future acquisition.

Fast forward a year and a half into the future, and it’s safe to say the defining move of Brett Brown‘s six months was effectively successful, but not in the way it was meant to be.

You see, the Sixers ultimately did use that draft pick to pull off a massive trade to acquire Tobias Harris, and based on the four-year, $180 million deal he signed over the summer, it’s safe to say the team views the combo forward as a big part of their future. Coach Brown – not to be confused with GM Brown – also ended up with a young, uber-talented defensive guard who has played a significant part in shutting down some of the league’s best point guards – only that player is 2019 first-round pick Matisse Thybulle, not Zhaire Smith.

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That puts the Sixers in a bit of a tough spot moving forward, as the team has a not-insignificant $3 million invested in the still-only-20-year-old Puma endorsee this season, despite having yet to make his regular-season debut in the red, white, and blue.

Smith has played alright in the G-League with the Delaware Blue Coats, averaging 13.9 points and 3.5 rebounds in 27.5 minutes of action a night, but with 2019 second-round pick Marial Shayok routinely outscoring the sophomore by as much as 20 points a night, it’s worth wondering if the Sixers will get anything out of Smith this season, or over the course of his rookie deal.

For as much as it may hurt Brown and company, the Sixers may be wise to move on from Smith at the deadline, and cash in on whatever remaining value he possesses to another team who hopefully doesn’t serve sesame seeds in their cafeteria.

If only there was another player somewhere in the NBA who has room to grow, defensive versatility, and an ability to contribute to the team as a sixth man coming off the bench; bonus points if he’s an otherworldy dunker.

Well, there is a player, and his name is Glen Robinson III.

A fourth-year wing out of Michigan who actually had a cup of coffee with the Sixers back in 2015, Robinson signed with the Golden State Warriors back in June with the hopes of further developing his skills on a legit championship contender – albeit one without Klay Thompson, Boogie Cousins, or Kevin Durant – but quickly found himself trapped on quite possibly the worst team in the Western Conference with just Draymond Green to keep him company.

Fortunately, without the pressure of having to win-now, and Green on him to develop as a defender (to great effect, more on that here), Robinson is off to his best season as a pro at the tender age of 26.

Averaging a tad under 32 minutes of action a night as Steve Kerr‘s starting small forward, GRII is averaging 12.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, and .9 steals a game. He’s also knocking down a very impressive 39.4 percent of his 3.3 shots a game from beyond the arc – more than double his career average attempts.

Call it the perks of playing unencumbered in an expansive role, but it looks like Robinson has not only transformed himself into a deceptively good NBA player, but a player with whose talents are being wasted on a non-playoff team.

I mean think about it, how many other players are available at the draft who could fill a 3-and-D role coming off the bench, serve as the second unit’s top scoring option, and remain on the court late in games due to his defensive switchability? I imagine even fewer have the athleticism to be a factor in the full-court, and attack the bucket both for offensive rebounds and a well-placed ally-oop lob from Ben Simmons?

In a lot of ways, Glenn Robinson III is a more athletic, better shooting version of James Ennis – by goodness, could you imagine?

And as for Zhaire Smith? Well, the Golden State Warriors get a young guard with two years left on his contract who could fill a role when the team returns to their 2016 form.

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While targeting a legitimately talented backup point guard should be the Philadelphia 76ers’ primary concern with the playoffs looming, clearly Elton Brand and company would prefer to add a big wing to further fortify their already impressive stable of switchable small forwards. If that’s the case, Glenn Robinson makes by far the most sense of any player on the open market and could provide far more value to this team than the Golden State Warriors as a swing wing coming off the bench with the offensive and defensive versatility to remain in games regardless of the situation and personnel – kind of what Brett Brown hopes Zhaire Smith would develop into only three inches taller and an NBA Slam Dunk Champion. If the team’s can make a deal work under the cap, it could be a massive win-win.