By: Darryl Rice
What’s good y’all? We have a new day, but no new basketball. It still sucks. At this point in the season we are in the last round(s). On the West, it’s most likely the battle in Los Angeles, and on the East, Milwaukee and Toronto. Unfortunately, we are not there … we’re here.
On a lighter note, we’ve got some great activities lined up and I believe the NBA will come back sooner than expected. Thanks to the UFC, I believe a similar blueprint will emerge with some complex scheduling, but great basketball.
We are looking at draft prospects folks, and I have another big man I’ve got my eye on. If you haven’t had a chance to read my previous prospect article on James Wiseman, make sure you do so. He’s got a small sample size to look at, but make sure you look him up.
Jalen ‘freakin’ Smith. Make sure you look this guy up too. Here, I’ll help.
He’s the truth and has so much upside. He’s long, active, and I love his game-play. It’s like he let’s the game come to him. We can talk about James Wiseman all day, but we can also easily argue Jalen could be the better player. Jalen plays for the tougher conference. Jalen is the best big man in the Big 10 Conference. Maryland finished the top team in said conference, so there’s that.
Jalen is a great trailer, he has a great pace. He doesn’t over-run the fast break, nor does he lag too far behind, which generally slows the pace of the main ball handler. His I.Q for pace makes him a monster on the open floor. It’s funny to say that since he’s not fully grown into his frame, but he definitely has power behind those dunks. He can rattle backboards. Some of his most monstrous dunks have come from being in the open floor, and it doesn’t necessarily come from the fast break. This is great for transitioning to the NBA.
I know we talk ad nauseum about the pick-and-pop play. Jalen has a great pick-and-roll AND pick-and-pop game. His game-play is already set for the pro level. The man was shooting at close to a 40 percent clip from downtown earlier this year — unreal for a player who’s inside game is dominant.
There were two offensive plays Maryland ran specifically for Smith. One was a pick-and-pop above the break, where he just could not miss. Another play was a PnP, then straight to a PnR. This shows versatility, giving the coaches confidence in calling multiple plays for the offense to run at once. That pick-and-roll game is eerily sneaky. He just slides in and out of small windows, I believe players lose him in the commotion.
He’s so long that he literally stretches the floor. Take a look here against Indiana. He doesn’t even go inside. His first two shots were from downtown!
Jalen Smith is a great two-way player. He’s a great defender and shot-blocker. He’s so patient and understands his size, he doesn’t bite on the pump fake. He generally jumps off both feet, which keeps him square on defense. It would make sense why his balance is so good. The weird twist is, he’s on the floor substantially on D. I’m not too sure this is because of weight or just balance.
I pay attention to strengths more than weaknesses. Weaknesses aren’t my thing, I’m a ‘glass half-full’ kind of guy. If anyone thinks the upside to this player isn’t limitless is smoking hallucinogens. Not saying there’s anything wrong if that’s your thing, but please come back to planet Earth. I also pay attention to the comparisons of current pro players. Jalen’s game is being compared to Bam and Ibaka. I can see the Adebayo comparison in some areas, but I don’t see the Ibaka angle. Jalen and Ibaka both bring a high level of intensity on D and especially around the rim, but Jalen’s three-point game is undeniably better by leaps and bounds.
All in all, I believe this kid will transition nicely, as long as he doesn’t go to the Knicks. He’s a rim protector, shoots out the damn building from downtown, and is a great two-way player. He does need work, as they all do. We can talk about his physicalities, but this can’t be considered a weakness in my playbook because he hasn’t filled out yet. He’s got to close out quicker, and work on his passing, but other than that, he should go first round easily. I wouldn’t be surprised if he went before Wiseman, depending on how the chips fall. We will find out soon but until then, be safe and wash your hands!
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