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Best fits for Jalen Smith ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft

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The former Terps standout is projected to land inside the lottery to the end of the first round.

Jalen Smith, Nebraska, 2020 Sarah Sopher / Testudo Times

After being pushed back several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NBA Draft is set for Wednesday and Maryland’s Jalen Smith is going to find a new home.

Smith put together a phenomenal sophomore campaign for the Terps in 2019-20 and will become the fourth Terp drafted in the last three years, along with Kevin Huerter and Justin Jackson, who were drafted in 2018, and Bruno Fernando, who was drafted in 2019.

Jalen Smith, Forward, Maryland

Height: 6’10
Weight: 225 pounds
Wingspan: 7’2 14
Age: 20.6
2019-20 stats: 15.5 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 2.4 bpg, 54 FG%, 37 3FG%, 75 FT%
Resume: 2020 Consensus Third Team All-American, 2020 First Team All-Big Ten, 2020 All-Big Ten Defensive Team, 2020 Karl Malone Award Finalist (Top-5), 2020 Citizen Naismith Player of the Year Award Semifinalist (Top-10), 2020 Wooden Award Late Season Top-20, 2019 All-Big Ten Freshman Team, 3x Big Ten Freshman of the Week, McDonald’s All-American, 2x Maryland Gatorade Player of the Year, 5-star, No. 15 overall player in 2018 class

Smith’s Draft Projections

Outlet Pick Team Date Published
Outlet Pick Team Date Published
ESPN 13 New Orleans Pelicans 11/11/2020
NBC Sports 14 Boston Celtics 11/16/2020
CBS Sports 16 Portland Trail Blazers 11/13/2020
Bleacher Report 17 Minnesota Timberwolves (via Nets) 11/16/2020
CBS Sports 19 Brooklyn Nets 11/16/2020
SB Nation 20 Miami Heat 11/16/2020
Sports Illustrated 22 Denver Nuggets 11/16/2020
Yahoo Sports 24 Milwaukee Bucks (via Pacers) 11/16/2020
The Athletic 29 Toronto Raptors 11/16/2020

Best Fits

* Portland was originally included on this list, but was omitted after an impending trade was reported Monday night.

New Orleans Pelicans (No. 13)

The New Orleans Pelicans are one of the best fits for Smith. The way the Baltimore native developed into a true inside-outside scorer in his second year at Maryland would complement the game of 2019 first overall draft pick Zion Williamson well. Smith would join what is already a star-studded young core in The Big Easy with Williamson (20), the No. 8 overall pick in 2019, Jaxson Hayes (20), the 2019 No. 17 pick in Nickeil Alexander-Walker (22), Lonzo Ball (22) and Brandon Ingram (23).

Smith’s ability to shoot the lights out of the ball and protect the rim would mesh well with Williamson, who needs to continue to develop his shot and rim protection abilities. The Pelicans are in need of a big man who can shoot, which Smith proved to be one of his best skills last season. The former Terp would help space the floor as a stretch-four, which would allow players like Williamson to drive downhill into the paint and have the option to kick the ball out to Smith. He is also extremely versatile as a big man, which would complement nicely with Hayes, who stands at 6’11.

Brooklyn Nets (No. 19)

The Brooklyn Nets enter win-now mode under first-year head coach Steve Nash. With the return of one of the best NBA players, Kevin Durant, coupled up with a top point guard in the league in Kyrie Irving, it’s safe to say Brooklyn is going to do all it can to compete for a championship. Plenty of rumors have been circulating that James Harden’s time in Houston is coming to an end and the Nets are one of his desired trade destinations, which would give the Nets one of the best teams in the NBA.

As for Smith, there is no better player to learn under than Durant, who also came into the league as a tall, skinny forward. Durant is a generational talent, who Smith said he dreams of playing with in pre-draft interviews with media. As a 6’10 stretch-four who can space the floor out, Smith seems to be a perfect fit into the Nets system.

With Irving, Joe Harris, Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie, Brooklyn has plenty of talented guards, but the addition of Smith would give them a powerful front court. Smith would complement Durant, Jarrett Allen, Nicolas Claxton and DeAndre Jordan.

With an entirely healthy roster, Brooklyn puts out one of the most talented groups in the league. If Nash wants to roll with a tall lineup that can shoot, Smith would find his way onto the court for Brooklyn.

In Smith’s two years at Maryland, he proved that he can be productive offensively without always needing the ball in his hands. Anthony Cowan Jr. controlled the offense and Smith thrived in the post-game, pick and rolls and shooting off the catch. When Irving and Durant occupy most of time with the ball, Smith will work well in catching and shooting, as well as posting up defenders, as the floor will be very spaced out.

Miami Heat (No. 20)

If Smith falls out of the lottery, he could potentially land in Miami with the reigning Eastern Conference Champions. With Bam Adebayo, a defending rim protector, as the team’s main big man, Miami could use a power forward that can shoot the ball and space the floor, who also defends well.

Jimmy Butler proved in the 2019-20 playoffs that he is capable of leading a team. Smith’s game would fit well with Butler, who is a player that shoots, drives to the basket and passes a lot, averaging almost 20 points and six assists per game this past season.

When Butler drove to the basket, he loved to kick the ball out to guards like Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, and to add in Smith to that repertoire of shooters would be lethal because he would open up space for Adebayo to work down low and would cause defenses to collapse on him outside the paint, which would leave other shooters — like Herro and Robinson — open.

Miami relied on Jae Crowder and Kelly Olynyk to play the four position last season. Smith, who played out of position for Maryland last year, would fit well into the role of a power forward in Miami and his versatility would drastically help the team and Butler.

Boston Celtics (No. 14)

All-Star Jayson Tatum would be quite the player for Smith to learn under. The Celtics have one of the best core groups in the NBA, but with the addition of Smith, their depth could be positively impacted.

Smith is slightly taller and heavier than Tatum, who currently plays the four for Boston. Tatum is a generational talent and doesn’t quite play the same way as Smith, which could help the former Terp grow as a player. Smith’s best attributes are clearly his ability to shoot and protect the rim, and if he learned under Tatum how to handle the ball better and drive to the cup more, he could become an all-around complete player.

The Celtics rely heavily on their core of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Gordon Hayward and Tatum, and one of the only big men they trusted late in the season was 6’8 Daniel Theis. If Smith heads to Beantown, he could potentially be forced to play out of position if he is on the court with Tatum, but the 20-year-old showed that he could do it in College Park. Theis is a decent shooter, but to add a 6’10 shooter and rim protector to Brad Stevens’ roster could help all around.

If Smith is picked by the Celtics, he would join guard Tremont Waters, who sunk the game-winning layup against Smith when he was at LSU in the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament.

Washington Wizards (No. 9)

The Baltimore native and former Terp has been linked to the Washington Wizards, though Smith has not been projected to be drafted as high as No. 9. The Wizards used their ninth overall pick on power forward Rui Hachimura last year and could use the No. 9 pick this year on Smith.

All-Stars John Wall and Bradley Beal are the clear engines to the Wizards. With two prolific guards, Smith would complement the game’s of Wall and Beal well. The Wizards don’t have a solidified big man on their roster, just Hachimura, who has the most potential.

With former Michigan Wolverine Moritz Wagner also at power forward, Smith could prove himself with his shot and rim protecting abilities. Hachimura and Wagner do not play with the same skillset that Smith does, which could set the former Terp apart.

If Smith finds his way to the nation’s capital, just down I-95 from his home in Baltimore and his school in College Park, he could potentially become a key piece to the Wizards’ future as one of the only big men on the team that can shoot and protect the rim at an elite level.