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2020 NBA Draft Profile: Jalen Smith

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The Jalen Smith could provide depth in a Blazers frontcourt that has been beleaguered by injuries the past few seasons.

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 season is firmly in the rearview mirror and the 2020 NBA Draft is set to commence next week, on November 18. Unlike last year, the Blazers enter the process with two picks at their disposal. Portland currently owns the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 46 pick in the second round.

Today’s profile looks at Maryland Terrapins forward Jalen Smith. The bespectacled big man possesses a deep shooting range and shot blocking abilities that have turned him into a potential lottery pick.

Jalen Smith

  • Height: 6’10”
  • Weight: 225
  • Wingspan: 7’2”
  • Shoots: Right
  • Position: PF
  • Age: 20
  • Projected draft range: 13-20

2019-20 Statistics

  • PTS: 15.5 | Per 40: 19.8
  • REB: 10.5 | Per 40: 13.4
  • BLK: 2.4 | Per 40: 3
  • FG%: 53.8
  • 3P%: 36.8
  • FT%: 75

Strengths

Jalen Smith, a Baltimore native, is an excellent shot blocker with great length and athleticism. He defends without fouling, averaging just two personal fouls a game in a Big Ten Conference loaded with experienced big men. Smith is a solid rebounder on both ends of the floor. In the offensive paint, he is a strong finisher at the rim with great touch.

Offensively, he can be utilized in dribble hand offs, the pick and roll, and the pick and pop due to his shooting range—which improved dramatically this season. He didn’t shoot a high volume from distance (2.8 three-point attempts per game), but looked comfortable firing from distance off catch-and-shoot looks.

Weaknesses

Smith has poor passing instincts, often making the wrong read or forcing the ball into traffic. Outside of decision making, he needs to add strength to his lower body in order to become a true post-up threat at the next level. Smith was able to add weight during his time at Maryland—going from 215 to 225 pounds between his freshman and sophomore seasons, an encouraging sign that he will continue to fill out his slender frame.

Defensively, while an elite rim protector, he often struggled when guarding in space. Given the amount of NBA big men who can extend out to the perimeter, he will need to improve in this area to stay on the court. Like the Trail Blazers with Hassan Whiteside, Maryland typically opted for Smith to drop into the paint against the pick-and-roll, and he had trouble contesting shots from the midrange as a result.

2019-20 Season

After a solid freshman campaign, averaging 11.7 points and 6.8 rebounds playing alongside current Atlanta Hawks center Bruno Fernando, Smith stepped it up to another level as a sophomore. He led Maryland in rebounds, blocks, field goal percentage and three-point percentage, and was second in points and minutes—behind only senior Anthony Cowan.

The Terrapins ended the regular season at 24-7, and were the 12th ranked team in the country. They earned a share of the Big Ten regular season championship, and were set to be a top seed in the conference tournament before COVID-19 concerns abruptly ended the season.

Overall Assessment

Smith is a two-way player with more strengths than weaknesses at this point. Concerns about his strength and defensive limitations outside of the paint are real, but as a mid-first round prospect he’s a great option for what will likely be a playoff team. His improved outside shooting, combined with excellent rebounding and shot blocking seemingly have him ready to contribute on an NBA team from the jump.

Overall Fit

Smith is an obvious fit with Portland, given the lack of depth up front. Zach Collins remains a major question mark, both in health and development, and there is no guarantee that either Whiteside or Carmelo Anthony will return. Even if they both come back, it would still make sense to consider Smith as a long-term option.

Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum could desperately use a big that can consistently knock down the three-point shot—something neither Collins nor Jusuf Nurkic have been able to provide to this point in their careers.