A huge get: Jalen Smith agrees to re-sign with Pacers on two-year deal
It seemed unlikely that the 22-year-old former lottery pick would return because of the Pacers' contract limitations. But they offer an appealing opportunity.
Jalen Smith is staying in Indy.
The Pacers were able to convince the free agent forward/center to re-sign despite contract limitations.
It is a two-year deal worth $9.7 million, a league source told Fieldhouse Files.
The agreement likely includes a player option for year 2, but it’s not immediately known.
As I wrote back in March, the Pacers were severely handcuffed in the salary figure they could offer him due to the Phoenix Suns, who selected him 10th overall in 2020, declining his third-year rookie option. That’s a rare move, especially for a lottery pick.
That move made Smith, 22, an unrestricted free agent, free to sign anywhere after just two seasons in the NBA.
He was drafted two spots ahead of Tyrese Haliburton and is one month younger.
The Pacers were well aware of this challenge when acquiring him, but no one could have seen Smith’s productivity taking off as it did. With several Pacers missing time due to injuries late in the year, including Myles Turner sidelined to end another season, Smith got the playing time he needed rather than keeping him on the bench.
He played in 22 games after the trade, averaging 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game.
“I love him,” head coach Rick Carlisle said of Smith one week ago. “He’s important to us. And beyond that, we’re just gonna have to see where things go on July 1.
“He’s got an amazing opportunity here, he really does. And this draft does not affect his situation negatively one bit. He’s very much in the mix at 4 and even 5. We’ll see. He’s a terrific kid and he had a great experience here. I know that means something, but we’ll see as time goes on.”
Smith — who the team calls ‘Stix’ — and Carlisle built a positive relationship in matter of months. At first, Smith feared (and always thought) Carlisle was hard-nosed and never had any fun. But then his viewpoint changed after working with him daily.
Smith’s inexperience stood out several times last season, however. Like when he was ejected after earning two quick technical fouls in Orlando, and when he intentionally fouled with 14 seconds left in a tie game with the Cavaliers. He clearly thought they were trailing.
The Pacers acquired Smith on February 10 in a deal with the Suns to move off Torry Craig’s salary for the 2022-23 season and provide a cushion from the luxury tax threshold.
“Coming in, I didn’t let nothing affect me, no outside sources,” Smith said during his exit interview. “I just came here to work and get better and prove myself in this league.
“This whole summer is dedicated to my whole entire craft. It’s a huge offseason for me on the development side, building my body, building my game and making sure that I’m improving for the next season.”
Smith also knows he needs to be able to effectively play at both the 4 and 5, even though he’s played center his entire life.
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On the way out for the summer, Turner, the longest-tenured Pacer, was asked how he would advise Smith.
“Get your money, man,” he said. “At the end of the day, we all play this game for fun. But the underlying thing is we do this to take care of our family.”
The Pacers offered something most places did not: opportunity, a coach and front office that believed in him, and young players to grow alongside. Like Haliburton, Chris Duarte, Bennedict Mathurin and Isaiah Jackson.
On his decision making, Smith said fit and the opportunity to build his reputation would be huge factors. And that’s notable because this agreement suggests that his value across the league wasn’t what he hoped and most of us expected. It’s unlikely that he (or anyone) would have instead passed on a mid-level exception, for example, that’s worth $10.49 million.
“This offseason is going to come down to a lot of thinking, a lot of late-night conversations with my agency, my family and just trying to figure out the right path for me,” Smith said. “And at the end of the day, I’m just going to do what’s best for me. I just got to be happy with that decision at the end of the day, even though you don’t know what the future holds.”
Earlier in the day, the Pacers sent Malcolm Brogdon in a trade with the Boston Celtics for a first-round pick and five players.
Today was a good day for the Pacers…
✅ Convinced Jalen Smith to return
✅ Positive first summer league practice