PHOENIX SUNS

Suns finalize trade of Jalen Smith to Pacers for Torrey Craig

Feb 10, 2022, 12:13 PM | Updated: 8:10 pm

The Phoenix Suns have agreed to trade Jalen Smith and a future second-round pick to the Indiana Pacers to reacquire forward Torrey Craig, the team announced Thursday.

The move was first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

In a corresponding move, Phoenix waived forward Abdel Nader and released forward Justin Jackson.

Smith was drafted by the Suns No. 10 overall out of Maryland in the 2019 NBA Draft.

His 2021-22 contract pays out $4.5 million and will expire after this season after Phoenix did not pick up the third year of his rookie deal this past offseason.

The contract makes it a straight and easy swap with Craig’s $4.9 million salary for this season.

Craig joined the Suns last March in a trade with the Milwaukee Bucks, a move by the eventual NBA champions to clear up a roster spot. The 30-year-old immediately established himself as one of the best defenders and rebounders on Phoenix, continuing to earn playing time despite the Suns’ depth on the wing.

He signed a two-year, $10 million contract with the Pacers this offseason before Indiana tumbled down the standings and opted for resetting at the trade deadline.

Craig was averaging 6.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 1.1 assists over 19 minutes per game with Indiana. He’s shooting 46% overall and 33% from three-point range.

Playing behind a deep big man rotation in his first season, Smith had a turbulent rookie campaign, averaging only two points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.2 blocks across 27 games (one start).

The Suns declined to pick up Smith’s third-year option prior to this season, meaning that  he will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. It is a rarity for a first-round lottery selection not to have the third year of their rookie contract picked up by the team that drafted them. The decision axed Smith’s $4.7 million salary in 2022-23 and $6 million deal in 2023-24 off the team’s cap sheet.

Phoenix head coach Monty Williams has admitted that Smith was drafted with a projection of a playmaking power forward, but the Suns have since found him having more success as a small-ball center. Retaining Smith was less necessary for the Suns, who have Deandre Ayton, JaVale McGee, Bismack Biyombo, plus the potential returns of Frank Kaminsky and Dario Saric to consider in the frontcourt.

With that said, Smith has come on in his sophomore season, bumping his numbers up to 6.0 points, 4.8 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game in 29 appearances (four starts).

He had a six-game streak of scoring in double-digits from Dec. 27 to Jan. 6 with Ayton and McGee in and out of the lineup for various reasons.

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