Perhaps the biggest mystery of the Philadelphia 76ers preseason is the lack of playing time for Zhaire Smith.

The second-year guard out of Texas Tech seemed poised to take a step forward this season due to a healthy offseason and a strong showing in the Summer League.

But for reasons unknown Smith has not played much in the team’s first three preseason games, and it may take injuries for him to get a chance during the regular season.

Where we are now

Smith hasn’t seen any minutes in the first half of games in the preseason and has yet to play with any of the starters.

He’s averaging nine minutes per game and hasn’t stood out in those limited minutes.

Maybe even worse is that other young players including rookie Matisse Thybulle and fellow guards Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton are getting more playing time.

It appears he will need to jump over several players before he can get meaningful minutes this season.

Time is running out with only two preseason games remaining.

A look back at the Summer League

Smith had arguably the strongest Summer League out of any player on the team. His elite athleticism stood out alongside an improved all-around offensive game.

Some of Smith’s current Sixers teammates were raving about his play when they shared the court with him over the summer.

“I love playing with Z. He brings crazy energy on each end of the court,” Matisse Thybulle said back in July, via the Sixers. “He’s relentless on defense, and he’s fun to watch in transition.”

Shake Milton took note of some of the intangibles Smith displayed in Las Vegas.

“That’s my guy, I’m super proud of him,” Milton said during the Summer League. “He comes in and he works really hard. He’s a competitor.”

Smith averaged 12.4 points per game and shot 48 percent from the field in five games.

His strong showing just a few months ago, makes it hard to understand why he hasn’t had more opportunity to show his value.

Perhaps the strong two-way play of Thybulle has hurt Smith’s chances the most.

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