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Indiana Pacers Big Man Likely Declining Player Option

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According to Michael Scotto of HoopsHype, Indiana Pacers big man Jalen Smith is expected to decline his $5.4 million player option this offseason.

There’s also an early belief that forward Jalen Smith will decline his $5.4 million player option and enter unrestricted free agency this summer, league sources told HoopsHype. No decision has been formally decided, but this has been the early indication.

The Pacers traded for Smith in February 2022. Initially, Smith had a big role with the Pacers. In 22 games played for the team in 2022, Smith averaged 13.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Additionally, the former top-10 draft pick started a career-high 31 games for the Pacers last year. However, during the 2023-24 season, Smith’s role decreased amidst third-year center Isaiah Jackson‘s emergence. The big man averaged 17.2 minutes per game, his lowest during his Pacers tenure, and appeared in just seven of Indiana’s 17 playoff games.

Smith’s deadline to opt in for next season is June 29.

Indiana Pacers Big Man Likely Declining Player Option

What Jalen Smith Can Offer

Despite Smith’s decreasing role, he enjoyed the best three-point shooting season of his career in 2023-24. The 24-year-old shot a career-high 42.4% from beyond the arc. Additionally, his 59.2 FG% during the season is also a career-high. In March, Smith spoke about his growth as a perimeter scorer, saying “the pressure” affected his shot earlier in his career.

“I don’t think it was anything with my mechanics,” Smith said. “I think it was just the pressure I was putting on myself to make the shot rather than just shooting the ball. Obviously coming in and starting, as a young kid, it got a lot to my head. I just let that get to me. It was me just putting that pressure on me to be perfect. I believe that really affected my shot the most.”

Furthermore, he has the tools to be a good shot-blocker in the league and is very athletic. And although he has mostly been used as a backup big man, he can provide solid minutes as a starter as well.

Indiana Pacers Roster Speaks Highly of Jalen Smith’s Game

In November, Pacers center Myles Turner talked about Smith and what makes him special as a player. And according to Turner, it is Smith’s confidence and versatility that makes him an appealing big man.

“[Smith] is just all confidence. I think he can do everything,” Pacers starting center Myles Turner said. “He can shoot, he can make stuff down low, he can roll. I think his thing is just getting that dose of confidence,” he added.

Additionally, Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle praised Smith’s work ethic heading into the 2023-24 season.

“There’s nobody that worked harder than Jalen Smith in the summer,” Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said this week. He praised Smith’s preparation and defensive improvements. “He’s been a good rebounder, he can block shots.”

At just 24 years of age, Smith will likely only get better with consistent opportunities. And if he does nd up declining his player option, he will be free to sign with any team who has interest in him.


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