2 Rockets that earned untouchable status
Jabari Smith Jr.
In the weeks leading up to the 2022 NBA Draft, Jabari Smith Jr. was considered a sure thing to be selected first overall by the Orlando Magic, while the Rockets were expected to draft Paolo Banchero with the third pick. As we now know, the Magic shocked everyone and ruined everyone's mock draft by selecting Banchero first overall, while Smith dropped to Houston at number three.
And although Smith started the 2022-23 season off slowly, it didn't take long for him to display what put him in the conversation to be the potential first pick in the draft. Smith became the first rookie in NBA history to score 1000 points, grab 500 rebounds, make 100 triples, and block over 70 shots, while also becoming the youngest player in league history to pull off the same feat.
While still being a teenager.
Smith's confidence increased as the season progressed, to point where he became unguardable, in many respects. His jumpshot improved throughout the season, and especially his mid-range shot.
In the Rockets' final 20 games, Smith Jr. averaged 15.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks, shooting 47.2 percent from the floor, 36.5 percent from long-range, and 78.3 percent from the charity stripe. Smith's desire to make an impact on the defensive end could catapult him into one of the league's better 3-and-D players.
Smith's 6'11 frame allows him to essentially shoot over anyone in the league and his length and 7-foot-1 wingspan make him a force on both ends. As the season waned, we began to see more of a variety from Smith offensively, as he began to add dribble pull-ups to his bag.
He also flashed a underrated crossover in the post. Smith flashed an arsenal post moves as well and frequently drew comparisons to 7-time All-Star and 5-time All-NBA big man LaMarcus Aldridge (who the Rockets also wanted, ironically).
It's safe to say the Rockets landed a cornerstone.