Jimmy Patsos says Maryland center Jalen Smith can be a starter in the NBA for 10 years, but he cautions that Aaron Wiggins would sit on the bench if he declares for the draft and latches on with a team.
“I don’t want him to go to the [NBA Draft] Combine because I want him to stay at Maryland,” Patsos said of Wiggins on Glenn Clark Radio March 3. “Yeah, I want him to be an All-American. I want him to be drafted seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th. I also want the Terps to win. I’m just worried that the kid is not ready to sit.”
Patsos, an analyst for NBC Sports Washington, was the head coach at Loyola (2004-2013) and Siena (2013-2018) and an assistant coach at Maryland (1991-2004) under then-head coach Gary Williams. Patsos believes Wiggins would stand out at the Combine despite his struggles shooting this year (30.7 percent from 3-point range after shooting 41.3 percent last year).
“Wiggins would scare the heck out of me because he measures, he shoots it well, he’s going to shoot it well in drills and he’s made big shots. He made big shots last year,” Patsos said. “I don’t want to see him slide to 28th or 29th.”
Patsos believes if Wiggins is a second-round pick, the wealth he accrues won’t outweigh his desire to play.
“How wealthy will he be if he’s an early second-round pick?” Patsos said. “He’s going to be miserable not playing because he’s not going to play.”
Patsos said being a rookie in the NBA and sitting on the bench is not an easy situation to handle. Instead of entering the draft this year, Wiggins should improve his stock with another year at Maryland, according to Patsos.
“You’re going to get some money, [but] go get more money,” Patsos said. “Have fun playing because you’re going to sit on an NBA bench and it’s not as fun as you think.”
Wiggins, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, is currently the third-leading scorer for the Terps (10.2 points per game) and is second in rebounds (4.9). Smith, a 6-foot-10 sophomore, averages 15.4 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game. Patsos says Smith has been a difference-maker for the Terps.
“He’s won them five legitimate games,” Patsos said of Smith’s defense. “He got his hands on stuff. He’s scared guys. Like he’s changed five real games for the Terrapins on the defensive end.”
Patsos compared Smith to Sam Perkins, who was drafted No. 4 overall in 1984 — one pick after Michael Jordan. Perkins played on four different teams from 1984-2001.
For his career, the 6-foot-9 Perkins averaged 11.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 0.7 blocks and shot 36 percent from 3-point range. Smith is shooting 37.8 percent from long range for the Terps, the best mark among the team’s regulars.
“I think he’s Sam Perkins,” Patsos said. “When you look at Sam Perkins, he’s a career elite shot-blocker, can make threes and rebound. He’s long. He’s a great person and Sam Perkins became a better shooter. He’s a starter.”
Patsos says Smith can become not only a contributor but a starter once he transitions to the pros.
“It’s the old contributor, then a starter, then impact starter, then the best player on the team that leads you to playoff wins,” Patsos said. “That kid starts in the NBA for me for like 10 years.”
Patsos says he doesn’t see what the knocks are against Smith’s game. Patsos said he’d take Smith No. 1 overall if he had a need for a power forward.
“If I needed a four man I would pick him,” Patsos said. “If I was the Warriors picking, I would pick him first because that’s the position they need.”
To hear more from Patsos, listen to the full interview here:
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