Last season, the Phoenix Suns surprised many by drafting Cameron Johnson with the No. 11 pick.
They sent shock waves around the league once again with their selection of Jalen Smith on Wednesday night, taking the Maryland big with the No. 10 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Like Johnson, Smith is a player whose main appeal for an NBA team is his shooting ability. He shot 36.8% on 2.8 attempts from behind the arc last year and also corralled 10.5 rebounds per game. He can be expected to serve as a stretch big.
Also like Johnson, draft analysts did not see Smith as a lottery pick. Arizona Sports’ Kellan Olson had Smith at No. 22 in his mock draft, and did not include Smith in the top 20 of the EOTS big board.
There were mixed reactions on social media.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie and John Hollinger were far from complimentary of the decision.
Vecenie’s scouting report: Smith is the first player drafted that I had a second-round grade on. He’s a good shooter with terrific shot-blocking instincts. He is a pogo stick leaper who made All-Big Ten. Unfortunately, he’s also just very stiff and struggles to move laterally. The Suns will need to do some significant work with his flexibility in order for him to defend in space, which is a worry for a pick used in the top-10 on a big man.
Ranking: No. 32
Hollinger’s team fit: Any time you can use a lottery pick to get a backup-caliber player at the league’s least valuable position, you have to go ahead and do it. Smith can shoot and has some shot-blocking capability, but I had him 31st on my board. This is a head-scratching pick with so much perimeter talent available.
ESPN’s Jonathan Givony had Smith as the No. 20 player on his big board and wrote:
The Suns shocked many in NBA circles by passing on a seemingly perfect fit in Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton to take Maryland big Jalen Smith.
Haliburton looked like an ideal guard to play behind Chris Paul and Devin Booker before eventually graduating to a bigger role down the road. Instead, the Suns looked to plug a more immediate hole in the frontcourt with Smith, who fills a need as a stretchy, shot-blocking big man. Smith should be able to play behind both Dario Saric (if re-signed) and Deandre Ayton, but passing on Haliburton there was tough.
Some recalled the Johnson pick and gave general manager James Jones the benefit of the doubt.
Others were confused by the selection.
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish and Kyle Boone graded the pick a D-. They wrote:
“I don’t understand it. I thought I liked Jalen Smith more than most, but I had him in the late-teens. But not in the top 10, and not on a team that already has Deandre Ayton.”
The Ringer was slightly more generous, giving it a C, and writing:
“The Suns clearly don’t believe in draft ranges, that’s for sure … The question is how much he can play as a power forward next to Deandre Ayton. Otherwise the Suns just used a top-10 pick on someone who can only play 15 minutes per game on their roster.”
The Ringer’s Paolo Uggetti had a different reason to appreciate Smith.
Some around Suns Twitter did some quick Googling of Smith and liked what they saw.
And former Arizona Cardinal Tony Jefferson had something nice to say about Smith.
In the Suns world, there’s some excitement. Mikal Bridges welcomed his soon-to-be teammate to the Valley.