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Houston Rockets: How Jabari Smith Jr. can win Rookie of the Year 

N.B. Lindberg
2022 NBA Rookie Portraits
2022 NBA Rookie Portraits / Gregory Shamus/GettyImages
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Can Jabari Smith Jr. rise above the field?

The most important factor to winning the Rookie of the Year isn’t a player’s production but rather their competition. For example, Malcolm Brogdon won ROY averaging 10.2 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 4.2 assists per game. Brogdon won the award because his biggest competition was Dario Saric and 31 games of Joel Embiid. 

With Chet Holmgren out for the season, Smith’s biggest competition will likely come from number one overall pick Paolo Banchero and fourth overall pick Keegan Murray. Banchero looks poised to have a sizable offensive role, and Murray is the most NBA-ready player selected in the first round. Jaden Ivey, selected fifth by the Pistons, could also work his way into the conversation, and someone selected outside of the top five will inevitably surprise.

Smith’s best route to the award is for Murray’s role to be smaller than anticipated for the Kings, and Banchero’s efficiency is poor enough that it weighs down what are expected to be strong counting stats. 

Another factor is how Smith starts the season. Last season, Jalen Green was maybe the worst player in the NBA in the first half. Even with an incredible second-half surge, it wasn’t enough to get the stink off, and he was never seriously considered for ROY. 

A similar fate befell Cade Cunningham, who entered the season as the ROY favorite. Instead, steady Scottie Barnes and Evan Mobley finished one and two. This isn’t to suggest those two weren’t deserving, they absolutely were, but for a full-season award, you can’t spend half a season digging a hole only to fill it in in the second half.