Phoenix Suns Decide Jalen Smith is a Bust with Latest Move

Phoenix Suns, Jalen Smith. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
Phoenix Suns, Jalen Smith. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports /

Mick Jager’s words, “old habits die hard…harder than the November rain,” ring all too accurately for the Phoenix Suns right now. The calendar just turned over today, and the Suns just admitted to their first blunder in a while—one which reflects their former issues as a franchise.

For a few years, the Suns struck gold with their draft picks by selecting Mikal Bridges, Cameron Johnson, and Deandre Ayton depending on who you ask. Before that though, they struggled, swinging and missing on Josh Jackson and Dragan Bender.

With their latest pick though, the Suns chose big man Jalen Smith at 10th overall. This morning, they declined to pick up his rookie option, prompting Smith to go and sit at the “bust” table with Bender and Jackson, rather than that of the surging young core’s.

Smith still remains attached to the Suns, at least for now. His contract still extends out until this season’s end, and the Suns own the ability to match any offer for him this summer as he becomes a restricted free agent.

At six-foot-ten, with a seven-foot-two wingspan, and with a recent NBA All-Summer League First Team bid, Smith still possesses serious upside. He also stretches the floor well as a willing 3-point shooter, which no center for the Suns currently does with Dario Saric still unavailable.

However, the way Phoenix neglected Smith last year gave way to concern after a while. His long-term relationship with the Suns looked flimsy from the start, as he quickly became a widely discussed trade option for the team rather than anything else.

Most lottery picks influence their teams early on during their careers, but Smith immediately became an asset to move, rather than play—staying on the shelf likely for good reason. Those same reasons almost certainly led to Smith’s limited play to start this season, and Phoenix’s decision to free him up this summer.

Picking up Smith’s option would not have hurt the Suns in any way, with him still attached to a rookie deal. In actuality, this move somewhat hurts the team, as they essentially decreased Smith’s trade value for no reason other than to perhaps make a statement.

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With that considered, this move ultimately boils down to Phoenix’s strong belief that Smith simply does not belong in The Valley. At least now everyone knows where things stand with him though, breaking the fall for anyone expecting him to come through with a breakout season this year.