Miami Heat Draft: Jalen Smith could be this year’s first-round steal

Jacob Young #42 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in action against Jalen Smith #25 of the Maryland Terrapins. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
Jacob Young #42 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights in action against Jalen Smith #25 of the Maryland Terrapins. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Miami Heat got one of the steals in last year’s draft in guard Tyler Herro. They could do it again this year by drafting Jalen Smith out of Maryland.

Fans were largely disappointed when the Miami Heat landed just the 13th pick in last year’s Draft Lottery. When it turned out to be shooting guard Tyler Herro, the worry was put at bay, temporarily.

But when Herro stepped on the floor, put in the work that makes the Miami Heat Culture great, and recorded a three-point campaign that would make the likes of Kyle Korver jealous–fans started to buy-in.

And this year, as Heat fans prepare for a draft that will see their team picking as late as the mid-’20s, they’ll be hoping that Pat Riley can pull off some similar magic in this year’s draft.

Cue Jalen Smith, sophomore forward out of the University of Maryland. He’s coming off a second season with the Terps where he averaged 15.5 points,10.8 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks. All while recording an incredibly efficient 53/36/75 shooting split.

Smith earned 2019-2020 All-Big Ten honors while helping Maryland to a 24-7 record. Projected as a late first-rounder, the 20-year old could very well be available when Miami is on the clock.

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As the Heat continue to put together a team that’s built not only on youth but stardom, Smith very well may fit both timelines. He’s capable of scoring on all three levels, can both rebound and defend at the rim, all while already having the frame of today’s typical big man.

Smith has a 7-1 wingspan, but you wouldn’t know it based on his shooting stroke. Whether outside of the arc or within the mid-range, he’s got a smooth and fluid jump shot at 6-10.

Check out this 29-point performance from Smith against Indiana University. He went off for 29 points and knocked down 4-of-6 shots from deep:

Strength is likely a concern, but that’s often the case with almost any incoming rookie big man or stretch four even. Smith already has a solid frame, but strength may prove to be the make-or-break factor in his future as a starter/non-starter the league or even further heights.

His passing’s also a weakness, as it’s almost completely absent. If teams end up doubling up on Smith at some point, he’ll need to be able to keep the ball moving. But there should be little doubt in Erik Spoelstra’s ability to develop the forward’s weaknesses to an NBA level.

And the Heat could soon have openings in the forward rotation.

Kelly Olynyk could be on the way out with a $12.3 million player option for the 2020-2021 season. Derrick Jones Jr is headed for free agency this summer and there are doubts about the likelihood he returns to the Heat next season.

Elsewhere, while Bam Adebayo played a lot of power forward next to Meyers Leonard (who’s also a free agent this summer) this season, he’ll likely top out as a starting center.

And while there are a lot of similarities between Smith and Adebayo’s respective games, there are far worse ways for the Heat to spend a first-round pick than on Bam-insurance.

In regards to Miami’s future and present, Smith would fit right into the rotation. A lot of his offensive and defensive tendencies are NBA ready.

As are his size, length, and frame. This is exactly why he may very well prove the steal of this year’s first-round in the draft.

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The Miami Heat will be drafting their next rookie at the bottom end of the first round. If Jalen Smith is available when Pat Riley is preparing their selection, they should take a hard look at the 20-year old forward from the University of Maryland.