Back throughout the 2019-20 season–which, due to a pandemic, was the longest season on record spanning almost a full calendar year–the Houdini was high on Maryland big man prospect Jalen Smith for one of the Boston Celtics’ upcoming 2020 first-round picks.
Unfortunately, Smith was off the board by the time the Cs were on the board with the first of their draft choices, and they instead selected Aaron Nesmith with the #14 pick. 12 picks later, Boston wrapped up its first round by taking Payton Pritchard out of Oregon to add another ball-handler to the rotation.
Fast forward to January 2022, where Phoenix Suns fans are wishing they had the means to flip Smith for either 2020 first-rounder. Unfortunately, due to not picking up his team option, the Suns are now left with an expiring contract for a guy that could ask for a sizable pay-raise this offseason a year ahead of schedule.
His value isn’t high enough to return a cost-controlled fellow first-rounder without draft compensation, and no one is giving up draft picks to acquire Nesmith or Pritchard. That said, it’s high enough to where seeing him sit on the bench behind Deandre Ayton, JaVale McGee, and 10-day contract-turned-pivotal depth piece Bismack Biyombo isn’t good for his career trajectory, even if an NBA Championship is once again possible in his second pro season.
Valley of the Suns’ Collin Helwig condemned Phoenix’s front office and explained why a Smith deal to the Boston Celtics, or perhaps anywhere, is off the table:
So put simply, trading Smith anywhere, including Boston, bares only minimal rewards for the Suns. Although young pieces Aaron Nesmith or Payton Pritchard remain valuable players which the Suns might, they still hold more value than Smith with Boston having picked up their team options.
While the Cs missed out on Smith the first time around, they likely aren’t worried about it too much considering Robert Williams’ vast improvement in his game.
That said, Brad Stevens probably wouldn’t turn down adding another young big into the mix since Enes Kanter and Al Horford are no guarantees to be on the roster after this season.