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Rockets select Jabari Smith Jr. with No. 3 pick in 2022 NBA Draft

Jabari Smith, Rockets

The Houston Rockets have selected Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. with the No. 3 overall pick of the 2022 NBA Draft.

The athletic, sweet-shooting freshman was one of the best players in college basketball last season, averaging 16.9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game while connecting on 42.0% of his three-point attempts. Smith won the Wayman Tisdale Award as the top freshman in the country, also being named First Team All-SEC and a consensus Second Team All-American while helping the Tigers to a conference championship and 28-6 overall record.

At 6-foot-10 with good length and impressive lateral agility for his size, Smith is a near-prototype power forward prospect for the modern NBA. He’s a true marksman with a quick, compact stroke, high-level footwork and improving shot versatility, attributes that should help Smith contribute immediately at the next level despite being a year younger than most other elite players in his draft class. The Tyrone, Georgia native is also a committed, active defender, capable of switching onto smaller guards without being regularly exploited.

A relatively late bloomer, Smith is clearly still growing into his body, giving scouts optimism that his disappointing efficiency from inside the arc and all-around struggles creating offense off the dribble will subside over time. He needs a lot of work as a passer, too. There’s also a chance that Smith puts on enough weight and adds enough vertical pop to eventually function as a small-ball five, affording his team rare lineup flexibility that becomes especially valuable in the postseason.

Even if Smith doesn’t reach his superstar ceiling as a go-to scorer and game-changing defender, his enviable blend of size and shooting touch alone will ensure he’s an impact player for the Rockets. He is set to tag along with Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr. to lead a Houston offense in need of another spark after ranking at 19th in points per game with a 109.7 average last season.