Potential Sixers Draft Target – Jalen Smith

This 6’10, 20-year-old sophomore became the first player from Maryland to be named AP All-American since Greivis Vasquez in 2010. Jalen Smith checks all the boxes for being a modern NBA forward in today’s NBA. How does Jalen Smith fit with the Philadelphia 76ers? Let’s take a look.

Links to previous Sixers draft targets…

Overview

Jalen Smith was an elite talent coming out of High School out of Mount Saint Joseph. Jalen Smith was a McDonald’s All-American and a 5-star recruit according to 247, ESPN and Rivals. He chose Maryland over other offers from Villanova, Virginia, Duke and Arizona. Jalen Smith had grown up a Terps fan and it was a dream come true for his family and Maryland basketball fans.

Jalen had a very strong freshman season at Maryland, starting all 33 games and averaged nearly 12 points and 7 rebounds per game. He certainly showed flashes of what’s to come his freshman season as a member of the Maryland Terps. He was a double-double machine from the jump, was named to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team and won Big Ten Freshman of the Week three times.

A sophomore season to remember…

Jalen Smith was a finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year and Naismith Player of the Year awards. He was named AP Third Team All-American and First Team All-Big Ten. Jalen Smith was a machine in the glass, putting up 21 double doubles in 31 games. Should he declare, Jalen’s combination of defense and perimeter skills certainly makes him one of the most intriguing prospects in this year’s draft.

Jalen Smith is one of the top players hurt by the Coronavirus. After a slow start in November and December 2019, Jalen Smith’s shooting and efficiency really began to take off and become more prominent during the last two months of the season. Smith was setting himself up for an excellent NCAA tournament and it’s a tragedy that he wasn’t able to showcase his unique skillset on one of sport’s biggest stages.

Strengths

  • Perfect fit for the modern NBA: While Jalen Smith may be 6’10, his talents and skill set go beyond the paint. Smith is an inside-out prospect that shows great touch around the paint and can consistently hit a jump shot. He’s nicknamed “Stix” for his freakish athleticism that allows him to switch on defense and protect the rim.
  • A force in the paint: One of the best rebounders in college. If there was a guy who passes the eye test, this is it guys. Jalen Smith averaged 10.5 rebounds per game (17th in the NCAA) and made several highlight dunks and put backs his sophomore season. He had the 3rd best defensive rebounding percentage at 25.6% and the 8th best offensive rebounding percentage in the Big Ten at 11.5%.
  • A phenomenal defensive prospect: Due to his insane measurables, this is prospect that will likely climb up the draft boards as the draft process continues. Standing at 6’10 with a 7’1 wingspan, Jalen Smith plays like a power forward but moves like a wing on the court. He’s extremely fluid which allows him to change direction on a whim and stay in front on his man. Jalen is extremely quick off the ground and can block or misdirect attempts at the rim with either hand.
  • Real perimeter skills: Jalen Smith possesses one of the more diverse skill sets in the draft. He shot 36.8% from 3 (32 for 87) and shot 75% from the free throw line 4.8 attempts per game. He’s got a face up game and the ability to stretch the court to the three-point line. Don’t get me wrong, he still needs lot of refinement on the block.  But Jalen’s elite athleticism also makes him a terror on the offensive glass for put backs. He had 14 games of at least 4 offensive rebounds as a sophomore. Jalen Smith’s 11.6% offensive rebounding percentage was good for 8th best in the Big Ten.

Weaknesses

  • Turnovers and basketball IQ
  • Needs to increase his basketball IQ
  • Passing and offensive refinement
  • Needs to gain strength

Film Highlight

Jalen Smith’s ability to finish above the rim in transition would make him an attractive small ball 5 to play alongside Ben Simmons. In the half court, Jalen has a soft touch around the rim and can use either hand. Jalen lived off his elite quickness to score in the post at Maryland. He’s reckless with the ball in his hands and this is an area that will require further seasoning.

How many uber-athletic, 6’10 forwards can thrive in catch and shoot situations? Jalen Smith has the ability to hit the open three in the corner and shoot in movement. He averaged 2.8 three point attempts per game as a sophomore for Maryland. These traits allow him to be extremely attractive in the pick and roll at the next level.

Jalen Smith is one of the premiere shot blockers and defensive players in the country. That doesn’t mean he’s a finished project. Jalen needs to fine tune his basketball IQ on defense.

Jalen Smith is one of the most athletic and best high risers in the draft.

Possible Fit with the Philadelphia 76ers

In this era of position-less basketball, a player is measured by how many positions you can defend. Players who can stretch the floor, protect the rim and control the paint are at a premium in today’s NBA. Jalen Smith is a modern NBA player who can switch on defense and provide real spacing on the court. Jalen’s stock will undoubtedly depend on how well he shoots from the perimeter when the NBA Draft process begins.

When looking at the Sixers, the Al Horford signing has been a disaster. Yes, Horford started playing better before the season was postpone (39% from 3 during the last 10 games). But let’s be real. He’s shooting 33% from 3 this season and Horford’s inability to fit next to Ben or Joel has been one of the biggest disasters in Sixers history. Horford is owed 27 million per season for the next three years. The Sixers will surely look to move him this offseason.

Jalen Smith’s ability to switch on defense, defend the pick and roll, play a small ball 5 and be a threat from beyond the arc is the ticket…

This is what makes him a very interesting prospect for Elton Brand. Make no mistake, Smith is a raw prospect and will require some seasoning and development. But Jalen Smith checks all the boxes for being a prime fit next to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. It is a priority for the Sixers to find a stretch 4 to groom alongside Ben and Joel. Smith being an elite defender is truly the icing on the cake.

Stat Nuggets

  • Jalen Smith was 2nd in the Big Ten in Defensive Win Shares (2.4) and 4th in Defensive Rating (88.9)
  • Jalen’s 2.4 blocks per game was 2nd and his 8.2% block percentage was good for 3rd in the Big Ten
  • His combination of defensive prowess and offensive efficiency led to him having the 19th best win shares in the NCAA (6)
  • He had the 2nd best offensive rating in the Big Ten at 123.9 and true shooting percentage of 62.6%
  • Smith had the #1 effective field goal percentage in the Big Ten at 59%
  • Smith was one of the most efficient players in NCAA, finishing with the 3rd best player efficiency rating at 29.3

Final Thoughts

Despite the inside-out skillset, Jalen Smith currently projects as a mid to late first round pick in this year’s draft. In the world of pick and roll and small ball, this is a guy who really needs to be on every Sixers’ fans radar. It’s no secret that Smith needs to develop both mentally and physically. He struggles finishing through contact and draws way too many fouls. Jalen Smith also needs to work on his ability to keep the offense moving. He had 25 assists compared to 53 turnovers as a sophomore.

Jalen Smith’s skillset on defense and shoot from the outside makes him a perfect fit for the modern NBA. I could see him excelling in Connor Johnson’s pick and roll system with the Blue Coats next season. Smith seems to be the next darling in NBA analytics and the thought of him playing alongside Christ Koumadje with the Delaware Blue Coats would be a dream. In summary, Smith’s ability to switch on defense and stretch the court makes him a perfect selection for the Sixers at #22. Jalen Smith’s versatility would make him a home run pick for the Sixers in the 2020 NBA Draft.

Check out this video breakdown on one of our previous Sixers draft’s Jahmi’us Ramsey, guard from Texas Tech