Indiana Pacers: Statistical trends behind Jalen Smith's scoring success
The Indiana Pacers acquired Jalen Smith last season in exchange for Torrey Craig. Since then, the Pacers have signed Smith to a new deal and promised him a starting role.
The Indiana Pacers acquired Jalen Smith last season in exchange for Torrey Craig. Since then, the Pacers have signed him to a new deal and promised him a starting role.
One problem, the Pacers also signed Myles Turner to a new deal, and they have a ton of centers on their roster. They had so many; Indiana just cut one before the trade deadline. That would be Goga Bitadze, their former first-round pick.
Indiana tried starting Smith at the four, but it was not a great fit schematically alongside Turner, so they tried him on the bench. Then they balanced Isaiah Jackson and Daniel Theis rotating between games — doesn’t this sound like a mess?
Smith found himself removed from the rotation entirely for a stretch of the season until just recently. He has played in the last two games and has done one thing well in each game: rebound. It is hard to find on-court consistency when the opportunity is not there, but Smith has an interesting trend between his higher-scoring nights and his higher-rebounding outings.
Rebounding and Points
This led me down a path unforeseen. Was there any correlation between Smith’s rebounding production to his field goal percentages, scoring, etc?
Stay with me here as I do my best to break this weird thought down.
Smith has played in 53 games for the Pacers this season and scored ten or more points in 22 of those games. In those 22 games where he scored ten or more — he has also scored five or more rebounds in 20 of those 22.
This means 90.9% of the time he grabs at least five rebounds he also contributes ten or more points of offense. He also has an average +/- of nearly 1 in those spans of games, which is fine.
To take this stat line further, in the 22 games where he scores ten or more points, Smith averages 54.6% from the field. This would be the third-highest on the team of the players who play regular rotation minutes this season. He is behind Isaiah Jackson (57.3%) and Myles Turner (54.9%).
Jalen Smith is top three in field goal percentage when he grabs five or more rebounds. Additionally, his scoring output of ten or more points occurs 90% of the time when he does rebound at around that clip. That seems… good.
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Growth for Smith
Most NBA players have a skill set they can lean on in any situation no matter how they are used. Think Buddy Hield’s shooting, Terry Taylor’s rebounding, or Myles Turner’s shot-blocking. Jalen Smith has that similar feel when it comes to rebounding. He is good at using his size and positioning himself for the ball. He can be out of rhythm, but there are also times when Smith leaves no question as to who the rebound belongs.
Here's a recent example of how Smith turns his rebounding into points.
His post-scoring is still in progress, but he makes smart plays at the rim. His potential and ability to get second-chance points would benefit this roster in extended minutes. Watch as he creeps into the lane to help, and then rips the ball down for control.
I look forward to seeing him and Isaiah Jackson develop into becoming that steady presence on the glass and try to become similar to what Turner brings offensively.
The young guys will have to develop their shooting to be anywhere close to on par with what Turner is providing. Jackson is sitting at 16% from three, and Smith is around 29% respectively.
It is a good problem to have — two different young players with varying skill sets that are unique to them and fun to watch. I think Smith has a lot of value to provide and that he should be getting more minutes in the last stretch run of the season. Not to say Daniel Theis gave bad minutes, but when you are thinking future of Pacers basketball, you do not think of Theis.
Smith has averaged 10 minutes a game in his last 11 appearances. However, in his last two games, he has received 15 or more minutes and has played at a consistent level.
Pacers VS Magic: 7 points, 7 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots with a +/- of 12.
Pacers VS Mavericks: 11 points, 9 rebounds, 1 block, and was a +10 on the floor.
I thought there was a neat consistency in his stat grouping, so I wanted to share my thoughts on Smith in this light. He does not have a set role on this roster yet, but Smith has the tools to suit the team's needs.
With more time on the court and a steady lineup around him of creators, Smith can thrive in a backup center role. His ability to shoot is intriguing, and he has proven that he can get shots to fall. Rebounding helps him stay engaged on the floor, and when he does that, the points tend to follow.