Knicks Prospect Breakdown: Maryland's Jalen Smith

Kris Pursiainen

My 2020 NBA Draft Profiles:

Guards: Cole Anthony, Tyrese Haliburton, Anthony Edwards, RJ Hampton, Killian Hayes, LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Maxey, Kira Lewis Jr., Tre Jones

Wings: Deni Avdija, Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro, Aaron Nesmith, Josh Green, Saddiq Bey

Bigs: Onyeka Okongwu, Obi Toppin, James Wiseman, Aleksej Pokuševski, Precious Achiuwa, Jalen Smith

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Jalen Smith is a 20 year old PF/C from the University of Maryland who averaged 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game in his sophomore season. Smith's ability as a floor-spacer and shot-blocker should allow him to make a solid contribution to whatever team drafts him this fall.

On offense, Smith has displayed that he has a decent shot form and an ability to hit from deep. Out of 2.8 attempts from beyond the arc per game, Smith made 36.8% of them - an improved mark from his abysmal 26.8% conversion rate on just 2.2 attempts per game in his freshman year. This ability should continue to develop, and force defenses to keep an eye on him when he's on the outside. Smith's capability to hit shots off of screens and handoff plays is a reason for the "buying" of his shot I'm describing here: he just seems to have the touch and form needed to do what you'd expect from a floor-spacing big.

In the paint, Smith displays more good touch but struggles due to a lack of strength and athletic burst. He puts in effort, as he shows when he runs the floor in transition, either as a rim-runner or trailing shooter, but has trouble  finishing without some time to "load up" for a dunk or strong layup. 

Smith sets good screens, and is a threat in both pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop situations. When "rolling" to the rim, Smith does an okay job of positioning himself to get the ball - but could benefit from some footwork work. This also shows defensively, when Smith has a tough time changing directions and moving laterally. 

On the topic of defense: Smith is a good rim-protector who has shown off some impressive "feel" for playing on that end of the court. His lateral movement, or lack thereof, will inhibit his ability to defend in space, and other factors such as his lack of vertical burst and strong footwork prevent him from being anything other than a shot blocker as of now, but his good sense of timing and good defensive-IQ help him play that role effectively. 

To have a true impact on the defensive end, Smith will need to work on his footwork, hips, and overall agility. With these improvements made, however, he should be able to serve as a really solid backup big man for whichever team utilizes their draft pick on his services.

I project Smith to be selected at some point later on in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. The Knicks currently own the Clippers' first round pick, via the Marcus Morris Sr. deal, which puts them in prime position to have someone like Smith available when they're on the clock. Whether the two non-lottery picks the Knicks possess will be used in some sort of trade remains to be seen, but if they are indeed making the selection at what is currently the 27th pick it wouldn't hurt them to take a look at Smith and assess his fit on the roster. 

I believe his floor-spacing ability, coupled with his rim protection, should be enough to keep him in the NBA for several years to come. Whether he can bring the other aspects of his game around or not will determine whether he's a career back-up, or a starter impacting the game in ways similar to a big man like Serge Ibaka. 

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