Jalen Smith is re-signing with the Pacers after the Suns declined his third-year rookie-scale team option. Per multiple sources, the forward agreed to a three-year, $15.1 million deal. And along with a 10% trade kicker, this contract includes a player option for the 2024-25 season.
On Feb. 10, the Suns traded the forward and a 2022 second-round draft pick to the Pacers for Torrey Craig. In the 2021-22 NBA season, Smith averaged 9.2 points and 6 rebounds per game in a total of 51 games played. He also averaged 50.3% shooting from the field and 32.8% from 3-point range.
Suns G.M. James Jones could not re-sign Smith for more than his $4,670,160 team option due to a contract restriction. It put the unrestricted free agent in a difficult spot. According to NBC Sports, Smith is set to earn $5,043,773 in the 2023-24 season, and his player option for the 2024-25 season is $5,417,386.
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Jalen Smith will benefit the Pacers’ frontcourt
Furthermore, Smith was selected 10th overall by the Suns in the 2020 NBA Draft. In his rookie season, he was assigned to the Ontario Clippers of the NBA G League. After averaging a career-high 13.4 points per game with the Pacers last season, it goes to show that the Suns dropped the ball on this one. In only 22 games played in Indiana in the 2021-22 season, the forward posted his best numbers.
In the Suns’ 123-108 loss against the Celtics on Dec. 31, Smith scored a career-high 19 points in 27 minutes of action. Days later, the forward tied his career high in points again. He finished his performance with a double-double in the Suns’ 133-99 blowout win over the Hornets, amassing 19 points and 12 rebounds in 24 minutes played.
While with the Pacers, Smith ended his Mar. 2 outing with a career-high 15 rebounds in his team’s 122-114 overtime win versus the Magic. Maybe all the 22-year-old needed was more minutes on the court. Jalen Smith averaged 13.2 minutes per game with Phoenix in 29 games played, whereas he averaged 24.7 minutes with Indiana in 22 contests.
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Head coach Rich Carlisle wants Smith starting at power forward
At 6-foot-10, the former Maryland player could play either forward or center on the Pacers. Jalen Smith can help Myles Turner in more ways than one. Turner appeared in only 42 games in the 2021-22 season. Having competition on the roster can help an inconsistent player.
Last season, it seemed doubt also creeped in for rookie forward Isaiah Jackson. The 22nd overall pick in last year’s draft failed to meet expectations. He probably needs more time to adjust to the NBA.
Though, Smith and Jackson have similar stats. Jackson averaged 8.3 points and 4.1 assists with the Pacers in the 2021-22 season. Perhaps these two young stars are right where they should be at this point of their professional playing careers.
When asked about the forward, head coach Rich Carlisle released a statement about this signing: “One thing that Jalen Smith’s parents both said about his experience with Indiana is that ‘It was great to see him smile again.’ Indiana became a very warm place for him and his family, and he’s signed on here to be our starting power forward.” Other news stories related to Jalen Smith are on the main page.
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