Has Houston Rockets' Jabari Smith Jr. fallen short of expectations?

Chicago Bulls v Houston Rockets
Chicago Bulls v Houston Rockets / Tim Warner/GettyImages

Expectations can be a burden.

They raise the bar - sometimes, unfairly. The best days of your life have probably been unexpected. Once you've assumed that a day will be memorable, you'd better hope it meets expectations. Otherwise, it could be a day that you hope to forget.

The third overall pick in any NBA Draft comes strapped with expectations. That's where the Houston Rockets selected Jabari Smith Jr.

Has he met expectations to date?

Young Houston Rockets star disappointed in himself

Smith Jr. doesn't seem to think so.

Let's start with the obvious. Smith Jr. hasn't lit the league on fire. So, we're glad that he feels he hasn't met expectations.

Greatness requires a high standard. Still, we're not here to psychoanalyze Smith Jr. We're here to determine whether he's lived up to expectations in his NBA career so far.

Smith Jr. was abysmal as a rookie. There's no way around that. He was billed as a sharpshooter and knocked down just 30.7% of his three-point attempts. Smith Jr.'s -3.7 Box Plus/Minus (BPM) as a rookie is a ghastly figure.

In last year's sophomore campaign, Smith Jr. showed tremendous improvement. He connected on 36.3% of his triples, and his -0.4 BPM reflected his strides.

How does it compare with other third-overall picks in their sophomore season?

Recent Number 3 Picks - Sophomore BPM

2012: Bradley Beal, -0.4

2013: Otto Porter Jr., -0.5

2014: Joel Embiid, 3.3

2015: Jahill Okafor, -2.5

2016: Jaylen Brown, -0.5

2017: Jayson Tatum, -0.2

2018: Luka Doncic, 8.4

2019: RJ Barrett, -1.5

2020: LaMelo Ball, 3.4

2021: Evan Mobley, 1.7

Average: 1.12

By this measure, Smith Jr. is behind the expected production of a third overall pick. Do you see an immediate, glaring flaw with this process?

Us too. Doncic's outrageous 8.4 mark is an outlier. If we remove it from the sample, the average BPM of these third-overall picks in their sophomore year is 0.3.

So, Smith Jr. is still behind the curve, right?

Houston Rockets star is on the right track

That's still not an entirely accurate reflection of what we should expect from a third-overall pick.

Joel Embiid is an MVP winner. LaMelo Ball was exceedingly quick to adapt to life in the NBA. We can't exactly remove them from the sample - "Hey, Smith Jr. is doing great if you remove all of the best third-overall picks!" - but we shouldn't hold him to that standard either.

Let's get granular. Smith Jr. has the same mark as Bradley Beal. He's 0.1 ahead of Otto Porter Jr and Jaylen Brown. He's not far off of Jayson Tatum, and lapping RJ Barrett and Jahill Okafor.

Smithj Jr. is on pace to be a good NBA player. The shape of his prime production remains to be seen. Some see Smith Jr. as a potentially reliable shot creator, while others are expecting a high-end 3-and-D wing. However Smith Jr. looks in his prime, he only needs to keep working:

Something tells us that he's motivated.