The Phoenix Suns entered the night with the 10th overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and they decided to once again shock the NBA world by “reaching” for someone that wasn’t on the radar in that range. They passed on the likes of Devin Vassell, Tyrese Haliburton, and Kira Lewis Jr. among others to select Maryland big man Jalen Smith. Let’s just hope this works out better than the last time they took a big man from Maryland.
The Suns kept everything extremely quiet throughout the draft process, making it nearly impossible to see this coming, though there was a report that the Suns had a zoom meeting with Jalen Smith earlier this month.
Jalen “Stix” Smith said he participated in an in-person workout for the Suns and two meetings with the team, including one in-person with Monty Williams and James Jones.
Jalen Smith- F/C
- Position: F/C
- Age: 20
- Height: 6’10”
- Wingspan: 7’2”
- Role: 3 & D Stretch Big
Strengths: Floor Spacing, Rim Protection, Runs the floor well, Plus rebounder
Weaknesses: Perimeter Defense, Lower Body Strength, What position will he play?
Smith fits the bill as a stretch big that can space the floor with some flashes of movement shooting and can hit off the pick and pop. The form on his jumper is clean, the base is solid and the high-release point helps him get his shot off whenever he wants. I’m entirely sold on him being a valuable shooter in the NBA.
He can protect the rim well and makes solid weak-side rotations with perfect timing to send shots back at a high level (averaged 2.4 blocks per game). He is a tenacious rebounder that crashes the offensive glass constantly, averaging 3.2 offensive rebounds per game.
One major area of concern with him is his lateral movement, as he is one of the most stiff movers I’ve seen in this class. Adding some lower body strength and hip flexibility should be a priority for him to be able to survive on the perimeter defensively.
Jalen Smith says his work during the hiatus has been about developing his lower-body strength and flexibility, including his hip motion.— Brendon Kleen (@BrendonKleen14) November 19, 2020
Plus scoring in the post and shooting from deep.
The tweet above is going to be key for his development as a potential 4 that can play alongside Ayton, but I still mostly project him to be a 5 that occasionally plays that 4 rather than the inverse.
He should be an effective reserve big that can contribute right away in small stretches, but has some areas he needs to clean up before being thrust into a significant role.
Role/Fit in Phoenix:
The rumors of bringing back Dario Saric seem to point towards Smith playing as a combo 4/5 alongside Saric on the second unit. Assuming he’s going to crack the rotation in year one, this could mean the writing is on the wall for an Aron Baynes reunion, with a report coming out today that there are plenty of contenders that are targeting him, so this could be step one in preparing the roster for life without Baynes.
Either way, expect him to help with the floor spacing and compliment Saric on the bench unit by offering solid rim protection and giving them an interior threat. My main concern with him is that I think long-term he’s best suited to play the 5, which is a troublesome investment this high in the draft when you have a franchise center in Deandre Ayton on the roster. I expect them to experiment with them playing together in stretches, and it could work due to Ayton’s movement skills and ability to guard on the perimeter and Smith’s rim protection, but with the way the game has shifted it will be an interesting situation to monitor how they plan on utilizing him.