Heading into the 2022 NBA draft, there were three clear candidates for the first overall pick, Paolo Banchero, Chet Holmgren, and Jabari Smith Jr. For weeks the Orlando Magic, owners of the first overall pick, were heavily linked to Smith. However, on draft day, the Magic pulled a rabbit out of a hat and instead selected Paolo Banchero. The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Chet Holmgren second, and the Houston Rockets took the last man standing of the trio, Jabari Smith Jr.
Because the Thunder were so heavily linked to Holmgren, the Rockets, for most of the build up to the draft, seemed destined to select Banchero at third overall, making the hot start to his career all the more gut-wrenching. However, Banchero’s 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 3.6 assists per game wouldn’t feel quite as bad if Smith had also hit the ground running.
Jabari Smith Jr.’s ugly start to his Houston Rockets career
To put it politely, Jabari Smith Jr. has struggled. Touted as the best jump shooter in the draft, Smith is shooting 29.7% from three and 33.9% on twos to start his NBA career. His defense has been better, but as a rookie on a bad defensive team, he isn’t making such an impact on that end to negate the 280th-ranked effective field goal percentage.
Drafting a shooter third overall who can’t shoot has some Rockets fans in a panic, but it needs to be remembered that 13 games is a minuscule sample size. Over his first seven games, he shot 35.4% from three but has endured a five-for-26 slump over his past six. 3-point shooting percentage stabilizes around 750 attempts. Smith is at 74 3-point attempts for his career.
Obviously, shooting so poorly is a concern, but how much of a concern should it be? And more importantly, can Jabari Smith Jr. snap out of it? And be the 6’10 Klay Thompson he was projected to be?