Sixers Rumors: Brett Brown's Firing Might've Signaled the End for Zhaire Smith

Brett Brown might've prevented an earlier departure for Zhaire Smith.
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On Sunday, Sixers' new President of Basketball Operations Daryl Morey made his third trade this offseason. In return for Detroit Pistons reserve center Tony Bradley, Morey shipped out former first-round pick, Zhaire Smith.

The 21-year-old wing came to Philly on draft night in 2018. At the time, the Sixers drafted Villanova prospect Mikal Bridges -- then flipped him to the Phoenix Suns to get Texas Tech's Zhaire Smith and a future first-round pick. 

Since the 76ers were fresh off the Bryan Colangelo era and had yet to hire Elton Brand as the team's General Manager, former Sixers head coach Brett Brown was in control of the team's personnel decisions.

The Sixers had high expectations for Smith, but a sudden foot injury in the offseason put his rookie season in jeopardy. Fortunately, the former Texas Tech product didn't miss his entire debut season but managed only to make it on the court for six games.

Smith showed promise during that time, but it was clear he wasn't going to contribute much until his Sophomore effort. When year two rolled around, Smith found himself stashed in the G League more often than not.

Brett Brown believed in his former draft pick throughout the 2019-2020 season. However, the same can't be said about everybody else in the organization. Last year, the Sixers reportedly shopped Zhaire Smith ahead of the trade deadline.

With minimal production to show for in the NBA, Smith's availability drew little to no action in the trade market. Last year, the Sixers ended up not cutting ties with the young wing. Perhaps, Brett Brown had something to do with that. 

According to Jason Dumas of KRON 4 News, Brown was one of the very few people within the organization that remained high on Smith throughout his first two years. Based on the Sixers' decision to trade him for a reserve center so that he can be waived by the Pistons a few months after firing Brown -- it's hard to believe otherwise.

[RELATED: Analyzing Sixers' Zhaire Smith Trade for Pistons' Tony Bradley]

Smith's journey thus far has been filled with tons of difficult obstacles to overcome. Unfortunately, the Sixers felt they could no longer pay for and play the waiting game with his development. While his short-lived stint with the Sixers ends on a difficult note with a bunch of 'what-ifs' looming, the 21-year-old guard is sure to find himself a better opportunity with a fresh start elsewhere.

Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_