Utah Jazz NBA Draft Prospects: Jalen Smith
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The NBA draft is less than a month away, and teams are in full preparation mode ahead of the November 18 event. The Utah Jazz own the 23rd pick in the first round of the draft and will have a healthy slate of prospects to choose from. One of those options is Jalen Smith, the floor-spacing big man from Maryland who had a breakout sophomore season and is quickly rising up draft boards.
The Jazz own only one pick in the draft after sending their second-rounder out in a trade for Kyle Korver in 2018.
Jalen Smith: 6’10, 225 lbs PF/C – So – Maryland
15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 53% FG/36% 3p/75% FT
The first thing that jumps out when watching Jalen Smith is his combination of size and mobility. At a true 6’10, with fluid movement, Smith looks the part of an NBA player against college competition.
Smith is a strong leaper and floor runner who dunks on one end and blocks shots on the other. It’s not difficult to see how Smith’s size and athleticism will adapt naturally to the next level.
However, the Maryland sophomore’s real intrigue comes with his ability to spread the floor from beyond the three-point line. Smith looks incredibly comfortable and confident as a long-distance shooter, quickly catching and shooting with solid results.
Though the big man only attempted 2.6 threes per game at Maryland, he likely finds a role as a prolific floor spacer as he develops into an NBA rotation player. Smith is effective attacking closeouts with one or two dribbles where his long strides and decent ball-handling skills allow him to get to the rim and finish.
Defensively the Maryland product will be most useful as a secondary rim protector and help-side shot-blocker with strong rebounding instincts. Smith is better moving in a straight line rather than laterally, but will likely be able to help some when switching against smaller offensive players due to his length.
His combination of floor spacing, rebounding, and shot-blocking are unique and should give him multiple opportunities to find the floor in the NBA as a role player, even if he lacks star upside.
Despite excellent size and mobility, Smith never seems fully connected head to toe with his athleticism. The sophomore appears stiff in the hips which prevents him from fully unlocking his potential. That lack of connectivity will prevent him from having a Jerami Grant-like impact on the game at the next level.
Smith tends to play soft near the hoop, especially with his back to the basket, exposing his lack of overall strength. If he struggled with it in college, any hopes of it translating in the NBA are thin, especially early in his career.
The Maryland forward is a little slow to get off the ground which somewhat diminishes his role as a lob catcher at the next level, even though he’s a talented screener and has shown he can finish on top of the rim. He might find more success as a pick and pop option in the NBA.
His strength is below average for an NBA big man and will take time to fully develop meaning his ability to find a role in the league might be a bit slower than most college sophomores.
How Smith Fits With The Jazz In The Draft?
Between Derrick Favors and Tony Bradley, the Jazz have longed to find a big man who can serve as an adequate rim protector, that can also step out and space the floor to create room for either Donovan Mitchell as a driver or Rudy Gobert as a finisher.
Smith’s role in college will likely be similar to what he’ll be asked to do in the NBA, meaning he won’t have to rework his skillset as much as some big men who showing shooting potential. So while he’ll have to add strength before finding a bigger role in the league, he won’t be lost when he steps on the floor as a rookie.
With Quin Snyder’s knack for generating open shots, especially on the perimeter, Smith could find a valuable role offensively if he can continue to knock down three’s at a 36 percent rate like he did at Maryland.
In addition to spacing the floor, the Jazz could use Smith’s weakside shot-blocking and rebounding prowess, both areas where Bojan Bogdanovic is lacking despite his large frame. His potential to play both the four and the five whether he’s sharing the floor with either Gobert or Bogdanovic in a reserve role would provide versatility that the Jazz are currently lacking in the frontcourt.
Ultimately, Smith may be off the board before the Jazz are selecting at 23 due to his unique combination of skills. However, Snyder could likely find use for the soon to be 21 year old early in his pro career.
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