5. Jabari Smith Jr.'s stellar play of late
After a scorching hot close to the 2022-23 season and an outer-worldly Summer League showing, Jabari Smith Jr. was expected to pick up where he left off this season. However, it hasn't quite amounted to that, as he was largely inconsistent through the first nine games.
Smith had 5-of-16 performances and 7-of-10 performances, leaving Rockets wondering why he couldn't fully ascend into his full capabilities. The second-year forward struggled with his mobility on the defensive end and even proved to be unable to make free throws in crunch time.
(See the San Antonio Spurs game).
Smith got benched in the fourth quarter of the Denver Nuggets game, in favor of Jeff Green, and bounced back quite impressively afterwards.
Green has averaged 14.5 points over the last four games, while shooting 50 percent from the field, 36.8 percent from deep, and 87.5 percent from the charity stripe. By comparison, Smith was averaging 12.3 points, 48.4 percent, 36.3 percent from three, and 45.4 percent from the foul line through the first nine games.
Smith’s development over the last few games has easily exceeded his development at any point in his rookie season. Now that he's seemingly turned the corner, brighter days lie ahead for the 20-year-old Auburn product.