Houston Rockets vs Dallas Mavericks: X-Factor
The X-factor for the Rockets is Jabari Smith Jr. The third overall pick in the 2022 NBA draft has struggled to find his footing and has held back a starting unit that could be a dangerous offensive outfit. With Jabari, Eric Gordon, Kevin Porter Jr., Jalen Green, and Alperen Sengun on the court, the Rockets have posted an offensive rating of 104.4.
A large portion of that is because they’re shooting 31.5% from 3-point range, and Smith’s 29.7% 3-point shooting isn’t helping. When that quartet has played without Smith, they have an offensive rating of 141 in 28 minutes.
Smith isn’t the sole reason the Rockets’ starters have failed to score effectively, but he clearly has held them back. If he’s able to find his 3-point stroke again, it could provide the Rockets with an invaluable weapon against the Mavericks.
The Mavericks are great at preventing 3-pointers, but the beauty of a 6’10 sniper is that they’re supposed to be inevitable beyond the arc. If Smith gets hot, he’ll provide the Rockets with some extra scoring punch and force the Mavericks to make some tough decisions. Do you drag a center out of the paint to contain him in a way a wing can’t and risk getting obliterated on the boards? Or do you hope he cools off? Neither option sounds all that great, which is the appeal of tall shooters.
With Luka Doncic out and the Mavericks on the second night of a back-to-back, a breakout Jabari Smith Jr. game could be the X-factor the Rockets need to secure the upset.