Photo by Alexander Jonesi
By Kyler Van Vliet
The 2020 NBA draft has come and gone. Besides the league consensus top three picks in Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and LaMelo Ball, there were no other standout draftees, thus leaving teams uneasy in who to draft. Many drafted simply based off of player interviews, such as the Chicago Bulls picking college benchman Patrick Williams at pick 4.
The Phoenix Suns were one of many teams that left fans confused based off their first round draft pick, drafting big man Jalen Smith from Maryland. Smith, 20, played two seasons for the Terrapins, averaging 15.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game.
I too was confused by the pick as I was certain they would draft a guard like Kira Lewis who would have been a great scorer off the bench and could have developed quite nicely under the leadership of newly acquired point guard Chris Paul. But was the pick actually a miss?
If you take a look at the Suns’ roster heading into the upcoming season they only have one true big man under contract, 2018 No. 1 pick DeAndre Ayton. Every other power forward and center the Suns had last year is either an unrestricted or restricted free agent.
Aron Baynes is expected to sign elsewhere as he is seeking a payout and they have renounced their rights to Frank Kaminski and Cheick Diallo. As for Dario Saric, they may or may not resign him depending on the contract size he’ll be offered this offseason from other suiting teams.
Not only does Smith add depth to the Suns’ big man rotation, his biggest appeal comes from his ability to stretch the floor. Smith averaged just about 37% from three during his time in college. If he does find himself on the floor with Ayton, he will be a nice fit as he won’t clog the paint and will draw his defender away from the basket, allowing Ayton to rim run as he does so well.
There is a method to the Suns’ maddening draft night. Of course it wasn’t a sexy pick and it wasn’t the selection that most NBA analysts had going to the Suns, but it was a smart pick in the end.
Smith more than likely won’t ever be a star in the league, but if he can simply execute his role of setting hard screens, hitting open threes and grabbing crucial rebounds, then he will prove that the Phoenix Suns were a true winner of the 2020 NBA draft.