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Zhaire Smith May Be the Next Sixer to Start His Career on the Injury List

Yet another Philly first-round pick will face a foot injury before an NBA defense

Zhaire Smith Getty Images/Ringer illustration

Sixers rookie Zhaire Smith has suffered a Jones fracture in his left foot, Yahoo reported Tuesday, but it might as well have been written the moment Philadelphia traded for him on draft night. Smith, this year’s 16th overall pick, was in Las Vegas for a developmental camp Monday when the injury occured, the Sixers said. If it is in fact broken, the guard out of Texas Tech almost certainly won’t be healthy to start the season.

As far as franchise traditions go, Philly rookies getting seriously hurt is the darkest, and, tragically, one of the most consistent. The Celtics find underdogs. The Lakers find flashy players. The Kings find bad draft picks. Injuries find the Sixers.

Foot issues are especially worrisome to Sixers fans. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, the franchise’s two best players in more than a decade, missed three seasons combined at the start of their careers—2014-15 (Embiid), 2015-16 (Embiid), 2016-17 (Simmons)—because of foot injuries. Smith has yet to see Philadelphia’s team specialist, but is likely to undergo surgery later this week, reported NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark. The timeline at this point is up in the air, but the initial diagnosis of a Jones fracture—a break in the middle of the fifth metatarsal—isn’t a good sign. The usual recovery time for such an injury is six to eight weeks, or maybe longer, according to PhillyVoice’s Kyle Neubeck. Simmons missed what would’ve have been his rookie season with the same injury in his right foot. Kevin Durant was limited to 27 games in 2014-15 because of a Jones fracture and then another break in the same foot months later.

Since 2013, only three of Philadelphia’s first-round picks have been healthy enough to start the season: Michael Carter-Williams in 2013, Jahlil Okafor in 2015, and Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot, also in 2016. None of the three are currently on the team.

The list of Sixers rooks that were sidelined for at least a season is far longer and more talented:

Sixers First-Round Picks Since 2013

Year Drafted Player Games Played in First Season Reason for Absence
Year Drafted Player Games Played in First Season Reason for Absence
2013 Michael Carter-Williams 70 N/A
2013 Nerlens Noel 0 Torn ACL
2014 Joel Embiid 0 Broken foot
2014 Dario Saric 0 Stayed overseas
2015 Jahlil Okafor 53 N/A
2016 Ben Simmons 0 Broken foot
2016 Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot 69 N/A
2016 Furkan Korkmaz 0 Stayed overseas
2017 Markelle Fultz 14 Shoulder issue

Broken bones have been as much a part of trusting the Process as stacking second-round picks. Thinking big-picture might be the only way for a fan base to cope with—rationalize, even—such a sick number of injuries. The city is fully committed to playing the long game. In reality, the team is just rather unlucky.