Jalen Smith should probably be rated much higher than a mid first rounder. He's being touted as what every team seems to want: a long, athletic big who can protect the rim and hit threes. He showed those skills in spades in his two seasons at Maryland, posting a 15.5 PPG / 10.5 RPG / 2.4 BPG while hitting 37% of his threes in his sophomore year. His performance this year didn't go unnoticed, landing him on the First-Team All-Big 10 team, Big 10 All-Defense Team, and onto the Late Season Wooden Award Watch List.
Does our model see his reputation as legitimate? Emphatically, yes:
- Defense! Smith scored a stellar 95/100 in our model as a defender. His shot blocking rate was respectable for a top prospect with 2.7 per 36 (77th percentile for bigs), but where he really impressed statistically is with his 6.5 Defensive BPM (90th percentile for bigs). Based on those numbers, Smith looks like he'll be a good but not great rim protector while being a major net plus for team defense.
- Smith also registered an excellent grade in our model for rebounding, 96/100.
- His shooting grade of 45/100 isn't otherworldly, but it puts him in the 82nd percentile for bigs. The combination of his 37% clip on 3.2 threes per 36 and the 75% he shot from the line are all in the 71st percentile or greater for bigs are enough data points to assuage any fears that he won't be able to continue to be a threat from deep in the NBA
- Smith's shot attempt volume, 11.6 per 36 (48th percentile for bigs), and his free throw attempts, 5.5 per 36 (55th percentile) are both fine, but suggests that he'll never be a noteworthy scorer at the next level
- He's a bit of a black hole. He only averaged 0.9 assists per 36 (20th percentile for bigs). The good news is that he still showed a strong 5.8 Offensive BPM, which makes sense. A big who can stretch the defense and catch lobs is always going to be a handy player in the rotation
At the risk of hubris, Jalen Smith seems to be one of the easiest players to forecast in this year's draft. He's going to be a useful player. He's going to be able to hit threes as a respectable rate, but won't ever be a great scorer or passer. He'll be a good rim protector and team defender. He'll never be an alpha dog, but you know he's going to be a sought after free agent by good teams looking to add in the perfect complimentary piece around their stars.
His three top comps in our model (see above pic) are all encouraging: Zach Collins (my son!), PJ Washington, and Jonathan Isaac. The model sees the most overlap with Isaac skill-wise, but Smith and Isaac just move different. Isaac is a stretched out wing and Smith is a lanky big. I think the Zach Collins comparison is much more apt; prospects who need to get stronger but will contribute right away on defense and from three. It's cliche but I think the consensus is right on this on: Smith looks like the spitting image of Serge Ibaka.
- Our Comp: Serge Ibaka
- Suggested Draft Range: Top 10
- Immediate Impact: Moderate (stretch big who can get bullied down low)
- Long Term Potential: Moderate (elite stretch big, 16 PPG / 10 RPG / 2 BPG and 36% from three)