Let’s face it: Jalen Smith hasn’t had the career start the Phoenix Suns were hoping for when they selected him #10 overall in the 2020 draft. He’s barely seen the floor in meaningful games, ranking 42nd out of the 60 players in that draft for career minutes to date. The only other first round pick to play fewer minutes so far is #27 selection Udoka Azubuike. So...that’s not great.
While he has some tantalizing projectable skills, the 21 year-old second year man is a potential disaster defending in space, and hasn’t yet shown he can consistently generate the offense to offset that weakness.
Smith was also openly on the trade block before the season began, expected to be a key part of a trade with the San Antonio Spurs for Thaddeus Young that never ended up materializing. That trade could theoretically still happen, and it’s been well-covered...but what are some other deals the Suns could consider?
Marvin Bagley III, Sacramento Kings
Factors favoring a trade: Not so long ago Bagley was considered such a talent that he was selected before Luka Doncic. He garnered all-rookie honors in 2019, averaging 15 points and 8 rebounds on a respectable 56% true shooting, with a willingness to take the open three pointer when it was offered him. Still shy of his 23rd birthday, it seems possible Bagley could still become a respectable offensive force if given the right situation.
Factors against a trade: First of all, it’s unlikely Bagley brings anything to the table to offset the same defensive shortcomings that are probably sidelining Stix. On top of that he’s an injury concern, missing dozens of games in his short career with a near-constant barrage of back, knee, foot and wrist ailments.
On top of all that, Bagley and Smith don’t work in a straight-up trade because Bagley earns substantially more money as the #2 overall pick from his draft class. The Suns have to add Dario Saric to the deal, much like the proposed Thad Young transaction...and that might seem a little rich for an oft-injured project.
Jaxson Hayes, New Orleans Pelicans
Factors favoring a trade: Hayes has flashed great defensive instincts in his young career. Nominally a center, his athleticism gives him the ability to roam defensively and create a lot of disruption. He’s another trade that works on a 1-1 basis, though the Pelicans might demand some kind of sweetener to make it work if they were willing to entertain the idea at all.
Factors against a trade: Hayes arguably doesn’t have the same offensive upside as Smith. He’s a project in terms of developing offense outside of about 10 feet from the bucket.
The trade’s feasibility also hinges almost entirely on whether the Pelicans are prepared to throw in the towel on this season. Since none of these trades are likely to happen in the very near future, that may well be a possibility if the Suns are willing to add perhaps a future pick to the mix.
Chuma Okeke, Orlando Magic
Factors favoring a trade: This is another one that works straight-up, without the Suns having to use additional pieces. Okeke its built solid at 6’8 230, can guard the 3 and 4, and has put up some very impressive defensive performances with the metrics to back it up. He has a decent stroke, shooting 35% from deep on 3 attempts per game last season, which was his rookie campaign. Being 23 entering his second season in the league, he fits the James Jones mold as a more mature early career player.
Factors against a trade: As always, the Magic might not be open to this deal, preferring Okeke’s proven ability to play meaningful minutes vs. the question mark of Smith’s potential to develop into a superior offensive weapon. Okeke also doesn’t have a spotless bill of health, having torn his ACL in college and missed the start of this season with a hip injury. The team reported it as a bone bruise, so it may not be anything to worry about long-term, but he hasn’t yet proven he can weather the rigors of a full NBA season.
Terrence Ross, Orlando Magic
Factors favoring a trade: Leaving behind for the moment the idea of adding a defensive-minded frontcourt player, another Magic player might also make sense for the Suns. The Magic make an attractive trade partner because they are a rebuilding Eastern Conference team. This deal would be Ross for Smith and Saric, or alternatively (if the Magic would entertain taking Saric) the Okeke deal could even be combined into this one deal involving all four players.
Ross is a veteran (this is his 10th NBA season) who can play the 2 or 3 equally adeptly and has some decent playmaking skills. Most importantly for the Suns, he’d be a versatile bench player capable of creating his own shot.
Factors against a trade: It wouldn’t necessarily be easy integrating Ross into the team mid-season if the Suns have developed some rotational chemistry by then. He’s not a guy you would acquire to use as a 10 minutes per game bandaid, as he’s averaged more than 20 minutes per game every season except his rookie year.
This list is by no means exhaustive. There are a number of possibilities, and I’ve tried to provide some less obvious ones in addition to the ones being discussed regularly on the NBA gossip boards. What other possibilities jump out to you, Suns fans?
Which of these players would you add first, for Jalen Smith?
This poll is closed
Marvin Bagley III
Someone else please
Don’t trade Jalen!