Jabari Smith arrived at Auburn University as the number four ranked prospect in the country. He was the highest-rated recruit to ever attend Auburn. Heading into the 2021-22 college basketball season, all the attention was centered around Paoblo Banchero and Chet Holmgren. Then, Smith began to make a name for himself as the season progressed. His play helped Auburn grab the second seed in the NCAA tournament, but the Tigers lost in the second round. Smith finished the year averaging 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, and 1.0 blocks per game. In his lone season with the Tigers, Smith made the All-SEC first team and was named the SEC Rookie of The Year.
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Name: Jabari Smith
Jersey: No. 10
Weight: 220 lbs
Smith fits right into the NBA’s new era of power forwards. At 6-foot-10 and 220 pounds, he has the right frame built for today’s game. He’s also arguably the best frontcourt shooter in the draft. Last season, Smith shot 42 percent from beyond the arc. While his on-ball creation needs work, defenders have to be aware of him at all times. Smith can be lethal in catch-and-shot opportunities. If you give him an inch of space, he’s going to make you pay. Additionally, his defensive versatility is something NBA teams value. He’s able to guard in the post. Most importantly, he has the lateral speed to stay in front of guards on the perimeter. With a wingspan over 7 feet, he can contest shots on the perimeter, as he’s averaged 1.0 blocks per game. This is very valuable in a now switch-heavy league.
As mentioned earlier, Smith’s on-ball creation needs work. It’s the number one red flag he has in his game. He doesn’t have the ball-handling to consistently beat his defender off the dribble. He needs to tighten up his handle more and add a few go-to moves. When it comes to passing the ball, he’s not really good at it either. Sometimes he misses open teammates because of his overdribbling. Smith also struggles with shot selection. He sometimes settles for mid-range or three-point jumpers instead of attacking the basket or posting up. Smith shot just 43.5 percent from the field in college. This certainly needs to improve at the next level.
Another thing he needs to do is add more strength to his frame. Offensively, he’s going to go up against physical defenders like P.J. Tucker, Draymond Green, and Marcus Smart at times. Even though he has the size advantage, he’s got to be able to create space to shoot over people. He’s going to have to be able to hold his own against the physicality. Adding more strength will also help him guard up against bigger post players.
Overall, Smith still has the highest upside in the draft. From day one, he should fit right into today’s game. He has the shooting stroke and size to be an impact player at the power forward spot. His defensive abilities to stay in front of guards will keep him on the floor. The strength is an early concern but he’s going to eventually fill out his frame. If he improves his ball-handling and passing, he has the potential to become a dominant force in the league. There are still weaknesses in his game, but the upside is still very high. This makes him a worthy pick for the No. 1 selection on draft night.
Projected Draft Range: Top Three
Likely Landing Spot: Orlando Magic
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