EMPIRE OF THE SUNS

22 for 22: Do Suns go project route in 2024 NBA Draft with Tyler Smith?

Jun 16, 2024, 9:46 AM

Kyle Zunic #22 of the Perth Wildcats shoots a layup against Tyler Smith #11 of G League Ignite in t...

Kyle Zunic #22 of the Perth Wildcats shoots a layup against Tyler Smith #11 of G League Ignite in the second half of an NBA G League Fall Invitational game on September 06, 2023 in Henderson, Nevada. Ignite defeated the Wildcats 124-105. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

With the NBL’s Bobi Klintman not looking like much of a match for the Phoenix Suns as a potential selection at No. 22 in the 2024 NBA Draft, another big wing in that range is the G League Ignite’s Tyler Smith.

The two share some similarities but perhaps Smith being two years younger than Klintman at the age of 19 with some better athleticism is where the Suns could sell themselves on a developmental project here. And as we will get to, the similarities stop quickly between Smith and not only Klintman but just about any other first-round prospect in the last number of years.

Smith is giant for a modern wing, 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. He’s one of the few wing prospects from a size standpoint that could have physically been a power forward three decades ago. He has a gorgeous lefty release of a jumper. It’s hard to believe Smith has it for how large of a human being he is.

For some other reasons we’re going to get to go in a minute, NBA Draft analyst Ben Pfeifer outlined Smith’s archetype as more of a throwback to the stretch 4s from the 2000s. Think Al Harrington, Donyell Marshall, Troy Murphy or Tim Thomas. Skilled forwards with limitations in certain areas like ball-handling or quickness restricting them to a specific role.

While Smith shot 35% from 3 overall, he was at 46% on open catch-and-shoot 3s, per Pfeifer. That’s because Smith was not shy about taking all types of 3s, possessing the fluidity to go off the dribble at his size and even go to step-backs. Again, like Klintman, this all ties together into a fantastic sizzle reel.

It is the base for an extremely tantalizing prospect. So naturally, you the reader are waiting for the big but here. Because if we keep going on any more positives, this dude should be in the lottery, if not top-10.

And this is where we stop. Yep, that’s pretty much it. It’s about parlaying what he can do into becoming a rotation-level NBA player.

That’s not as farfetched as it sounds. Big boards have him in the first round for a reason.

Smith can be used as an active pick-and-pop screener. There is some roll man stuff here with the athlete he is.

You can talk yourself into some stretch 5 possibilities here before we get to Smith’s finishing, which was awful. The Ringer cited Synergy having his conversion rate on layups at 43.1%. That doesn’t seem possible. And while the G League is a terrible defensive ecosystem to judge a prospect’s defense, Smith is going to need a ton of time to figure himself out on that end, whether it’s on the ball, as a helper or an anchor. So, it’s hoping those traits can grow while he’s a stretch 4.

The wish list starts with Smith taking all the obvious fluidity and skill he has with his jumper and growing that as a slasher. Smith attacking closeouts will have to come and it wasn’t much of a part of his game. The 27 assists to 22 turnovers in G League play wasn’t as bad as you’d think, to be fair, and spoke to the simplicity of his role.

He doesn’t sound like much of a Suns guy at all but the thought here is that a prospect of his physical profile and shooting skill would never be thought of as someone Phoenix could add to its team next year. The problem is it’s a 19-year-old kid that is going to require serious seasoning in every other part of his game to be a NBA player.

It would be an odd approach for fittingly an odd prospect. Then again, this is the squad that signed Bol Bol and did something similar with him, albeit a player four years into his NBA career at the time. Perhaps the Suns could go back to that well again.

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22 for 22: Do Suns go project route in 2024 NBA Draft with Tyler Smith?