2022 NBA Draft grades: Houston Rockets select Jabari Smith with No. 3 overall pick
The Houston Rockets have selected Auburn forward Jabari Smith No. 3 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft. The pick was a major surprise, as Smith was widely expected to go No. 1 overall to Orlando throughout the draft process. However, in the hours leading up to the beginning of the Draft, the Magic ultimately landed on Paolo Banchero as their choice. With the Oklahoma City Thunder taking Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren No. 2 overall as predicted, the Rockets went with Smith as their choice at No. 3.
Banchero may be the more accomplished all-around scorer, but that hardly makes Smith a consolation prize. His skill set is exactly what teams are looking for in the modern NBA. Smith is perhaps the best shooter in this draft class, and he projects as a possible All-Defense selection in the front court. With those tools, his floor as a prospect is incredibly high.
Where Smith needs to develop is as a ball-handler. He is not an individual shot-creator, and if he is going to grow into a true franchise player, he is going to have to grow in that arena. Had he been drafted by Orlando, he would have played on a team without a franchise guard to help him along in that process.
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But in Houston, he joins last season’s No. 2 overall pick, Jalen Green, who should make his life significantly easier offensively. The fit in Houston works on both ends of the floor. Houston has a talented young center offensively in Alperen Sengun, but the Rockets needed help defensively up front. Smith should provide more of that than Banchero would have, and that should help the Rockets build a more balanced overall team.
Smith may not have been the top choice, but landing in Houston might be better for him in the long-run. He now joins a Rockets team that is better positioned to maximize him than Orlando was, and now he’ll have a chip on his shoulder as he enters the NBA.