PHOENIX (AP) — The Phoenix Suns selected forward Jalen Smith with the No. 10 overall pick in the NBA draft, opting for a young frontcourt player to build around their newly formed All-Star backcourt duo of Chris Paul and Devin Booker.
The 20-year-old Smith played two seasons at Maryland and averaged 15.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game last season. His selection was a bit of a surprise considering prospects like guard Tyrese Haliburton were still on the board.
But Smith does have an intriguing mix of defense, rebounding and shooting. At 6-foot-10, he was the only Division I player to have 60 blocks and 30 3-pointers last season and was a third-team AP All-American.
Phoenix has already made a lot of noise this offseason, adding the 35-year-old Paul in a blockbuster trade with Oklahoma City on Monday. The Suns received the 10-time All-Star and forward Abdel Nader, while sending Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque and a protected 2022 first-round pick back to the Thunder.
It was a bold move for the Suns, who are trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2010. They’ve got substantial momentum after going 8-0 to finish the regular season in the NBA’s restart bubble in Florida, which left them just shy of a playoff berth.
The Suns now have three high-profile players in Paul, Booker and forward Deandre Ayton, who was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 draft. They also have young role players like guard Cameron Johnson and forward Mikal Bridges, who both can play multiple positions.
Smith could play a supporting role for Ayton, who averaged 18.2 points and 11.5 rebounds last season.
Booker has grown into one of the league’s best young scorers in Phoenix. The 24-year-old averaged 26.6 points per game last season and made his first All-Star appearance.
Paul is owed about $41 million in the upcoming season and has a player option for $44 million in 2021-22, so it’s imperative the Suns find some younger, inexpensive talent to fill out the roster.
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