With less than two weeks until the 2020 NBA Draft takes place, Jalen Smith will be hoping to hear his name called sooner than later.
Smith, a 2020 first-team All-Big Ten selection, declared for the draft after wrapping up his sophomore season with the Terps. With season averages of 15.5 points per game and 10.5 rebounds, Smith has been projected as a first-round pick by many outlets. He is rated as the 19th best prospect in the draft class according to ESPN. His ability to rebound and contest shots on the other end should allow him to make an impact in the NBA from day one. With that being said, there are a handful of places that would put Smith in the position to succeed from the start.
Boston Celtics (Pick 14)
Coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2020, the Boston Celtics seem primed to be Eastern Conference contenders for years to come. With the likes of Jayson Tatum, Jalen Brown and Kemba Walker running the show, the Celtics have a solid nucleus of young talent. Smith would be able to complement these stars in the frontcourt, providing rebounding, while also being a threat from beyond the arc. Enes Kanter is a pending free agent, and Daniel Theis is set to hit free agency in 2021, leaving the Celtics frontcourt with questions for the future, and Smith would have a chance to become an impact player early on because of this.
Minnesota Timberwolves (Pick 17)
The Timberwolves, who have one of the league’s best offensive big men in Karl-Anthony Towns, haven’t met expectations after making the playoffs as the 8th seed in 2018. With D’Angelo Russell joining the team at the trade deadline last season, and the first overall pick in the draft, the Timberwolves could move into contention in the Western Conference. Smith would be able to find a role in the rotation when Towns has to come off the floor, as his 7’2” wingspan and 6’10” frame would provide both rebounding and shot contesting off the bench from the start.
Oklahoma City Thunder (Pick 25)
The Thunder parted ways with Head Coach Billy Donovan following the 2020 season and could be looking to reset their roster and Smith could be a key part of that. With rising star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the backcourt, Smith could see time right away in the frontcourt, in a low-pressure situation. While the Thunder likely won’t contend for a championship in 2021, it would be one of the better destinations for Smith to see action from the jump.
Los Angeles Lakers (Pick 28)
Los Angeles won the NBA Finals in 2020, and have a good nucleus of talent, with LeBron James and Anthony Davis forming one of the best duos in the league. Smith is currently projected to be off the board by the time the Lakers pick in most mock drafts, but he would land in a good situation if he fell to the back of the first round. He would be able to contribute off the bench while learning from one of the best big men in the NBA in Davis. His three-point shooting could also help him to see minutes, as he shot almost 37% from beyond the arc for the Terps last season. Dwight Howard, Javale McGee and Markieff Morris are all pending free agents, so if the Lakers are looking to get younger, Smith would be a viable replacement.