Free-agent center Jalen Smith has agreed to a two-year, $9.6 million deal to return to the Indiana Pacers, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Friday.
A former top-10 pick in the 2020 NBA draft by the Suns, Smith’s career in Phoenix ended after just one full season as he was traded to the Pacers in a trade deadline deal for Torrey Craig.
The Suns decided not to pick up Smith’s team option of $4.7 million for 2022-23 after the young forward’s rookie season, which made him a free agent this summer. It was a shocking move; rarely will a team give up control of a top pick that early in his career.
Smith, 22, blossomed with more playing time in Indiana, averaging 13.4 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1 block while shooting 53% from the field and 37.3% from 3 in 22 games.
The Pacers, who agreed to trade guard Malcolm Brogdon to the Boston Celtics earlier Friday, have spent the past several months realigning their roster around a young core that now includes Smith, Tyrese Haliburton and 2022 first-round pick Bennedict Mathurin.