CLASSIFIED DOCUMENT: Bureaucracies move slowly. While there is no longer a reason for information about Jalen Smith to be redacted, we at iPacers.com have not been given the clearance to declassify everything.
As has been discussed ad nauseam by everyone covering the Pacers since he was acquired and started shooting like a human flamethrower , Kevin Pritchard was limited in what he could offer Smith, who averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds while making 11 of his first 14 3-pointers and shooting 37% from deep overall over 22 games with Indiana, in a potential deal to return to the team due to rules involving what happens when a team declines the team option on a player’s rookie-scale deal. The Pacers were being limited by the decision made by the Phoenix Suns to decline his third-year option and could only offer him $4.67 million in the first year of any contract.
After it appeared that Smith was playing himself out of the Pacers legal price range, it was assumed he would be able to find someone to take a chance on a young prospect that’s only 22 years old and entering his third season. Fortunately for the Pacers, a lot of things went their way:
- There simply weren’t many teams with cap space this off-season.
- Rebuilding teams like the Magic, Pistons, and Thunder that did have cap space or means to sign him either drafted bigs (Jalen Duren, Chet Holmgren, Ousmane Dieng) and/or re-signed their own young big prospects (Mo Bamba, Marvin Bagley III). Both of these players got between $11-$13 million per season on their new deals, so the Pacers appear to have got Smith at a bargain rate.
- Many teams used up their MLEs on more veteran players that are ready to contribute to a team looking to win now.
- Pacers were probably one of few teams that could offer him playing time.
Speaking of which, Indiana probably has some more roster clean up to do in order to find definite time for him on the court this season. As of now, the Pacers have five players whose best position is at center: Myles Turner, Isaiah Jackson, Jalen Smith, Goga Bitadze, and Daniel Theis, who was acquired in the trade of Malcolm Brogdon earlier today. And while Smith played some at power forward last year, they also have Oshae Brissett and Terry Taylor who are most well suited at the 4 too.
With re-signing Smith, the Pacers will now employ the 10th (Smith), 12th (Tyrese Haliburton), and 14th (Aaron Nesmith, also acquired in the Brogdon deal) overall selections from the 2020 NBA Draft where the team originally didn’t own a first-round pick.
When going through a complete rebuild, Smith is the exact type of guy you want to take a chance on. Talented but underperformed in his short time in Phoenix, the Pacers took a flyer on whether a change in scenery could help him. The Pacers originally acquired Smith along with a 2nd-round pick for Torrey Craig at the trade deadline.