Jalen Smith was drafted by the Phoenix Suns at No. 10 on Wednesday night
The Phoenix Suns and James Jones did what nobody thought they would do with the 10th pick in the NBA draft when they selected power forward Jalen Smith from the University of Maryland.
Before the draft, it was clear that Smith’s 3-point shooting, rim protection, and size were solid reasons that the Suns simply couldn’t ignore Smith.
Last year, Jones shocked the NBA when he selected Cameron Johnson who was predicted to go in the lower third of last year’s NBA draft with the 11th pick. Jones was crucified for that selection because Johnson was projected to go much later in the first round.
Fast forward to 2020, and you find Jones doubling down with the same philosophy of selecting the best player for the team’s need regardless of the pick position.
Once again, the selection of Smith brought out a string of low grades for the Jones on yet another reach.
What writers, bloggers, and fans should consider when grading a team’s draft pick is its needs and draft history. Then, one should process what the team is likely to do. Teams should not always go with need or best available, necessarily.
After going through those options like a point guard running a fast break, you are more likely to come up with a logical assumption of what the Suns might have been looking at with their No. 10 selection.
For this draft, the Suns needed backups at every position on the team. So the next question would be what is more important to them: Rebounding, blocked shots, defense, 3-point shooting, ability to backup starters, or a backup such as Tyrese Haliburton that could be the point guard of the future?
As everyone should know the future is now for the Suns and that there will be time to find the point guard of the future along the way. Probably the strongest evidence in the selection of Smith over Haliburton is that the road to the championship leads through Los Angeles where the Lakers had 6-9 LeBron James, 6-10 Anthony Davis, 6-10 Dwight Howard, and 7-0 JaVale McGee, three of which are current or former All-Stars. They all played important roles in the road to the Lakers finals victory. As you are aware the Lakers will reload this offseason and will again be the favorites.
Prior to the selection of Smith, the Phoenix Suns had two players over 6-8, the first was Frank Kaminsky whose option was just declined, and the second is Ayton. It was clear that the Suns were going to draft a “big” because the Suns never want to have to use Mikal Bridges as their power forward ever again unless they choose to go small.
Suddenly a few writers were starting to come around to Smith over the past six weeks, pointing out that Smith was moving up in the draft fast heading towards the lottery. As Bleacher Report’s Joe Tansey pointed out a month ago;
“Maryland’s Jalen Smith appears to be breaking away from the rest of the big men projected to land in the second half of the 2020 NBA draft’s first round. Smith has risen from a potential top-20 pick to a possible mid-teens selection in mock drafts over the last few weeks.
The increase in buzz surrounding Smith’s NBA potential could put four centers in the top 15, if a team is willing to use a high selection on him.”
Since that article there was a lot of talk of Smith going to the Pelicans at No. 13, so should the Suns trade down to get Smith where he was projected to be taken, or should Jones select Smith at No. 10 because he knew what the only option was going to be given other teams interest in Smith?
With Tyrese Haliburton and Devin Vassell still on the board, most would think that it was a very tough decision for the Suns to make, but given the above evidence that Jones probably didn’t think twice.
How good can Smith be going forward? He has been compared to many players including P.J. Washington from Charlotte, and even shades of Serge Ibaka as Kevin O’Conner from The Ringer once pontificated. While longtime Suns fans might see a lot of former Suns great Larry Nance in Smith considering his height, weight, and shot-blocking abilities, keep in mind he does not have the footwork or the post-up game of Nance.
Smith does have a better outside shot coming out of college and most everything else.
Having Chris Paul as his point guard will expedite his and Deandre Ayton’s development, and it also means that Ayton and Smith are going to have a lot of fun being on the end of many of CP3’s lobs this year as Jared Dubin from FiveThirtyEight points;
“Almost immediately, most basketball fans began dreaming on a Paul-Booker backcourt. My mind instead turned to Ayton, because throughout his career, Paul has made a habit of getting the best out of all kinds of big men.
In New Orleans, he partnered with David West and Tyson Chandler, helping turn the former into one of the league’s best pick-and-pop threats and the latter into one of its premier dive men. With the Clippers, Paul teamed with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan to form Lob City, rocking rims all over the country. In Houston, he and Clint Capela became nearly as unstoppable a duo as Capela and James Harden. And last year in Oklahoma City, he formed beautiful partnerships with all of his bigs: Steven Adams, Danilo Gallinari (admittedly more of a stretch big) and Nerlens Noel, for the most part, but even Mike Muscala and Darius Bazley got in on the fun every once in a while.”
All in all, this has been a great week for the Suns which will hopefully lead to an even better season as it looks like the toughest Suns team in over a decade is about to take flight.