Scouting Report: Jalen Smith 5/17/20

Jalen Smith Scouting Report

By: Alex Brown @AhbAnalytics


Player Profile

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2020 Draft Age: 20.4 Years (March 16, 2000)

Measurements: 6’10, 7’1 (+3) wingspan, 225 lbs.

Background: Jalen “Styx” Smith is a double-double machine with a myriad of valuable tools for the modern game. He was a 5 star recruit back in ’18 and played alongside Bruno Fernando during his freshman year before taking over the role as the primary big at Maryland. He played incredibly tough competition in the Big 10 this year, yet thrived in a larger role, improving in almost every statistical category. His BPM went up +5.2, and Net RTG by 17.1.

Injury Report: No significant injury information available.

Personality: I buy his commitment to getting better and learning. He is rather emotional, yet really buys in. He has a very, very strong commitment to winning and clearly loves the game. Has fun on the court and gets fired up by his play and the play of his teammates. Yet, he is not ego-centric, and seems to be a supportive presence on the court and in the locker room. Seems quite coachable.

Athleticism: In space, Jalen has excellent speed and coordination for his size. His body control is above average and his ability as a vertical threat is enticing. He has upper body strength in his arms and shoulders, but not enough lower body and core strength to leverage it effectively and functionally. Quick in space, great leaper, great hand-eye. Footwork limits his ability to leverage it in the half-court setting.

Projected Draft Landing: 20-30 1st Round

Statistical Profile: (+35 Net RTG per 100 possessions)

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Career Projections:

  • High: Starter: Versatile Offensive Threat/Rim Protector. 
    • Smith could unlock his offensive versatility with major improvements to his handle, slashing, and footwork. Additionally, his shot development adds the capacity for additional volume from range. Defensively, he adds to his value as a rim protector with added strength and improved footwork, allowing him to maximize his instincts. He essentially gets better at all factors, plus develops additional ways to utilize his tools. Lower body development clicks and allows him to become a major impact player.
  • Medium: Starter or Top of Rotation: Floor Stretcher/Rim Protector (3&D 4).
    • Shot development adds capacity for additional volume, and slight improvements in footwork and lower body strength allows him to become a slightly more versatile defender and rim protector. Offensively, his role remains as a floor stretcher, P&P/R threat, and play finisher.
  • Low: Top to Middle of Rotation: Floor Stretcher/Rim Protector (3&D 4). 
    • Shot development does not go as great as expected, and his footwork stays choppy with minimal body improvements. Retains value as a rim protector, play finisher, and mediocre outside threat. High floor of an impact role player.

Offense

Synergy Profile:Jalen Offense.jpg

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Jalen’s shot chart of the current season

Projected Role: Inside/Outside 4 | Play Finisher | P&P Specialist

Strengths

  • Floor Stretching: Smith has shown that he can be an effective floor stretcher from the top of the key, which is a valuable skill to have in the P&P/R heavy leagues of the modern day. His wing shooting needs to improve of course, but he has shown that he can even be a movement shooter off-screens and such, which is a very rare trait in someone his size. He has also shown that he can get to his dribble pull-up and knockdown face-up jumpers, though seldom utilized. His form has some inconsistencies, but nothing that cannot be fixed. His 3pt percentage made a noticeable jump from 26.8% to 36.8% on 87 attempts despite the additional range added this year. That should not go unnoticed, as he has clearly put the work in. Volume is still a bit low, partly due to his role at Maryland. The free throw volume and percentage improvement is notable too, up to 75% on just under 5 attempts per game.
  • Play Finishing: Jalen is an efficient play finisher when his role permits it, as he can finish above the rim from a standstill and is comfortable with both hands. He does a nice job of finding (but not always clearing out) open space in the paint and maneuvering around slashing guards, who often seem to be on the same page with Smith.
    • Vertical Threat: Smith gets up quickly and is an effective lob target along with being quite a powerful dunker. As a roll-man, his vertical gravity will certainly be an asset to work with for any guard as he sharpens up his fundamentals.
    • Slashing: Smith can attack closeouts with his average handle due to his developing gravity as a perimeter shooter, but is not a player that could attack the rim like someone in Siakam’s archetype. If he can get himself downhill, he can be deadly. Improved footwork and handle would really unlock his versatility.
  • Finishing & Roll Man Potential: Jalen flashes good touch with both hands, and catches the ball excellently around the rim. He has surprising upper body strength that helps him finish through contact in the air, though often his weaker core and legs hurt him. His physicality is improving as he gets stronger though, which was partly evident in his raise in FtR. He finishes at a rather efficient rate as well, and ranked in the 96th percentile on the offensive end (PPP). He has to make strides with his footwork to become a more effective roller, but he has all the tools.
  • Transition Offense: Jalen runs the floor very well with long, fluid strides. In space he is a tremendous athlete, and is very difficult to stop once he becomes airborne. He works for those easy dunks running from rim to rim, and since he will need to take advantage of his athleticism this motor in transition will be valuable. Furthermore, he has shown that he has pretty good body control in the air. Jalen finished in the 99th percentile in PPP in transition.

  • Offensive Rebounding: Jalen has a very high motor on the offensive glass, and it projects to provide NBA value when paired with tools like his as his strength increases and frame fills out. He finishes put-backs at a high level as well despite his lack of lower body leverage, as he is comfortable with either hand and is a quick vertical threat. His patience and anticipation have really nice flashes as well. While his lower body needs work of course, the fact that he is as good as he is right now on the glass is impressive.

Improvement Areas

  • Roll-Man Execution: Smith has some cleaning up to do regarding his ability as a roll man. His footwork and positioning are not always ideal, but he does dive and cut really quickly for a guy his size. He accelerates quicker than most 6’10-6’11 guys, and when paired with his other tools (and vertical threat) I see no reason why he couldn’t be a valuable roll-man in time. Despite it being his highest usage play-type, he only finished in the 49th percentile (.99 PPP) as a roll-man on 98 recorded possessions. Technique improvements should be in order. Check out his burst to the rim below:

  • Form Consistency: Release, footwork, base relatively inconsistent. In time, I think Smith will be a very good stretch big as consistency is developed. His shot changes during movement shooting, but has some really good flashes. I think that in time, Smith will develop to such a level that he would become a plus stretch big in the NBA. Not much to worry about, but notable.
  • Post Play: Smith is not very efficient in the post, and while this is fine in the modern game it reduces his potential versatility. His higher center of gravity hurts his ability to back down defenders and his slighter frame does him no favors. While he can get to hooks with both hands and really battles, his lower body is not there yet. He has some face-up potential, but I would be hesitant to use him as a post creator at the next level unless he is taking advantage of mismatches.
  • Lower Body Strength: If Jalen is known for anything right now, it’s his long skinny legs. Along with Smith’s higher center of gravity, his lack of lower body strength can bring issues on the court. It is difficult for him to backdown offensively and contain bruising bigs defensively. I do not doubt that his legs can get stronger, and his quick twitch helps make up for this, but I doubt he will ever be able to contain bruisers. Luckily, I think his true position is the modern 4 and the use of bruisers is occurring less and less. He has a Jonathon Isaac type of physical profile, and he has had quite a lot of success in the modern game…
  • Mediocre Passing: Playmaking is nothing special, reads are mostly basic and reactive if Smith is not acting as a play finisher. He can dribble his way out of double teams to make the first read and hit ahead in transition, but not much deeper than that as of now. He looked more comfortable playing off another big (like Bruno Fernando or a true 5) last year. Generally, Smith should mostly act as a play finisher from range and in the paint and won’t be picking anyone apart with his passing, but has shown flashes. He does have the tendency to telegraph them, so I am not sure it will translate against NBA defense. 0.8:1.7 Ast:To
    • Handle: Quite mediocre, only useful for retreating from doubles and attacking closeouts as of now. He can handle a bit in transition, but is at his best when he doesn’t have the ball in his hands for too long. Should he develop his handle (which I find feasible with his upper body coordination), he could really be a versatile threat offensively, even a combo forward.

Defense

Synergy Profile: (Noise, but added info)

Jalen Defense.jpgProjected Role: Rim Protector | Glass Crasher 

Strengths

  • Rim Protection: Jalen finished this season averaging 2.4 blocks per game on a 8.2% block rate. His length, timing, anticipation, and mobility are the key factors that really impact his ability to protect the rim at the 4 spot. The really great thing about Smith’s rim protection skills is the fact that he can still slide into the modern 4 fit while also protecting the rim with the tools of a 5. He is also able to block shots with either hand, and really benefits from his high level upper body coordination.
  • Rebounding: Smith rebounds at an excellent rate (25.6% DRbR) on the defensive end, pulling down just over 7 DRebs per game. He is not the physical space clearer like other glass eaters, but he sure makes use of his tools, anticipation, and motor on the glass without giving up on rim protection. He does a great job of fighting for space while watching the ball too.
    • Hands: Smith has quite coordinated hands on blocks/steals/rebounds. Very, very active hands around the rim on both ends.
  • Defending Slashers: Smith has value on the defensive end when he can turn and chase (or recover against) slashers that go after him, as he has the long strides and the length to really disrupt attempts at the rim. Even smaller, quicker guards often had trouble getting around him for quality attempts at the rim no matter how crafty, and most were deterred quite effectively. His length and ability to utilize his tools is really impressive in these situations. His technique should improve with coaching of course as he has the propensity to play on his heels, but the tools to be a versatile defender are there. His footwork is not good VS. Creators or Space Generators. However, he does do a good job against slashers, but his ability to defend multiple positions effectively will need time.
  • Impact: Jalen provides a stellar defensive impact on the stat sheet, reaching a +6.5 DBPM and adding 2.4 defensive win shares (9.9 overall, on a very strong 88.9 DRTG per 100 possessions) this year in a VERY tough Big 10. He contributes a winning impact even against bruisers (relevant as the second biggest knock on his defense is strength), and I believe this winning impact will be there at the next level. The effort is there as well as Smith seldom takes plays off, which is huge in my eyes.

Improvement Areas

  • Navigating Screens: When defending on the perimeter, Jalen does not have a good sense of getting around screens or navigating switches, etc. With a frame like his, one would think that it would be easier for Styx to “get skinny”, yet he struggles. It is more due to a lack of experience and technique rather than a lack of commitment, so I believe it will improve in time with repetition and improved footwork. This hurts his ability as a P&R/P defender, of course, but I believe in his development here. Right now though, he is obliterated by screens.
  • Defending Pull-Ups & Footwork: While Smith has great tools to contest shots, he struggles to defend dribble pull-ups when the perimeter play fakes a drive or works Smith off the dribble. When Smith backpedals, he is a liability. Opposing point guards quickly realized that if they could get Smith on his heels, they could get to their pull-up comfortably with little effort. Improving his footwork will be imperative to Smith becoming the versatile defender as he is capable of being. Smith has the potential to defend multiple positions should he make great strides with his footwork on the perimeter.
  • Strength: I’ve heard it reported that Smith has been following an incredibly strict bulk diet (5000cal+) and has been committed to getting bigger. With an NBA training program, I do little doubt that Smith will strengthen up to a plus or serviceable level for a 4 in his archetype. However, with his higher center of gravity and rather slight frame (despite projected muscle gains), he can still get pushed off of his spots in the paint. This hurts his ability to defend in the post or contain bruisers & physical wing slashers. His boxouts are also impacted by his slighter frame. He should not be playing the 5 in my opinion unless it is a small ball matchup where his length can dominate. Doubt the lower body strength ever becomes a plus, likely a long term weakness.

Overall Outlook

Two-way bigs that can stretch the floor are a rare and valuable asset. They can fit in on almost any roster, and some notable players in this archetype include Ibaka and Jaren Jackson Jr. Two-way bigs are typically successful, and typically a can’t miss value pickup. Jalen is a value pickup that will provide solid production, a winning impact, and room to grow. With improved technique, Jalen could maximize his tools on the defensive end, as he has the tools to guard multiple positions once his footwork is sharpened up. The potential lineup versatility generated from that would be very valuable.

Major Swing Factors: Lower Body Strength (will he be receptive?) All-Around Footwork (especially defensively), Handle.

 

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