Today's player in the Predicting 2010 Series is none other than Jason Smith. The man the Sixers traded up to get in the 2007 draft, who saw his 2008-2009 season end before it began is back and apparently preparing to play a big role with the team this season. Stats, projections and analysis after the jump.
Some people expected big things out of Jason Smith last season. Some of those people have hopped right back on the bandwagon this year. I can see why, he's a mobile 7-footer who can play with some of that spaz energy that's loved by so many. He showed flashes of a nice touch from the outside. Personally, I was more intrigued than excited about Smith. It typically takes big men longer to develop, but he did show the ability to shoot from the outside, he seemed a capable shot-blocker, and his work on the offensive glass left me hopeful that he'd develop into a decent defensive rebounder as well.
When Smith went down last summer I didn't view it as a killer for the team, since adding Elton Brand and Theo Ratliff would've made minutes hard to come by anyway, I thought it was more of a lost opportunity because it's a year longer for him to develop into whatever he's going to become. Essentially, Smith comes into this season as a sophomore with only 1,107 minutes of experience under his belt.
Now, the questions are plentiful.
- Is Smith 100% on that knee? He probably should be, it's been over a year.
- What role does Eddie Jordan have planned for him? If he's number 2 on the depth chart at center, he could see significant minutes. If he's behind Speights at the four and the five, less so.
- Did missing 08-09 essentially stop the clock on his development, or did he learn something from taking a step back and watching practice and games from a distance for an entire season? I have to think some learning by osmosis took place and he'll be further along now than he would've been had he been able to step on the court at this time in 2008.
- Will the work pay off? Every update we've gotten on the team this summer has had Jason's name front and center. Whenever video of a summer workout at PCOM was released, we saw Smith working hard in the gym. The other players seemed to rotate in and out, but Smith was the mainstay. He seemed serious in his rehab, and he's definitely logged a ton of minutes in the gym this summer, will it translate to the floor? I hope so.
Offensively, I'm not worried about Smith. His skill set should fit perfectly with Eddie Jordan's system, he's put in the time to learn the PO this summer. I think he's probably going to flourish. The thing that really worries me is where the interior defense is going to come from when Dalembert is on the bench. If Smith is going to be the backup center, which seems like a viable option at this point, he's going to need to drastically improve upon his 7.5 rebounds/36 minutes rate. Absolutely must. I like the 1.6 blocks/36, but blocked shots in a vacuum don't mean much. He seems to have packed on a little muscle and you'd assume that translates into strength, so maybe he'll be able to hold his own down on the blocks. His defensive production will probably have a lot to do with who he's paired with at the 4/5. If he spends time on the floor with either Dalembert or Brand, he can take the easier assignment and he should be fine. If he's out there with Speights or Thad, there are going to be mismatch problems unless Smith picked up a whole lot of technique in the past year.
As it stands, I think Smith sees regular minutes and has a firm spot in the rotation. Probably the second big off the bench with about 15 minutes/game. Here are his stats from 07-08 and my projections for this season:
Thoughts in the comments, as usual. Marreese Speights will get the treatment tomorrow.