What FiveThirtyEight has to about the Rockets' rookies
Jabari Smith Jr
Jabari Smith Jr is viewed as a “great prospect” with a peak WAR of 5.9. As the third overall pick with good NBA size and great shooting efficiency in college, it’s no surprise that projection models think he’ll be a very good NBA player. While scouts don’t believe in his superstar upside, just about every title team had a very good second-best player.
Smith’s comps are about as exciting as they come. His number one comp is Jayson Tatum, followed by Brandon Ingram, Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Jabari Parker, Bradley Beal, Kevin Knox, Luol Deng, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Stanley Johnson. Sure there are a few epic busts here, but when Luol Deng is the seventh-best player you’re compared to, you’re doing something right.
In terms of game, Tatum is probably the best high-end comparison for Smith. Ingram, Anthony, Durant, and Beal all possessed better isolation shot creation entering the league. While Tatum has become an elite wing scorer, he entered the league as more of a spot-up player who had to develop his scoring versatility. Smith is still probably behind where Tatum was as a rookie in this department, but his size edge makes shots open without an advanced array of dribble moves.
Tari Eason is viewed as a “good prospect” with a peak WAR of 3.3. His draft position, 17th overall, no doubt hurts him in the projections, but he posted above-average defense and rebounding metrics in college, which are stats that tend to translate well from the NCAA to the NBA.
Eason’s number one NBA comp is Kelly Oubre, followed by Danny Granger, OG Anunoby, Linas Kleiza, Austin Daye, Al-Farouq Aminu, Zach Randolph, Tobias Harris, Precious Achiuwa, and Julian Wright. Oubre is a solid NBA player, and if that’s Eason’s destiny, it will have been a solid 17th overall selection. However, if Eason can become Danny Granger, that would be an absolute steal.
Granger was an awesome player that morphed into an above-average volume 3-point shooter and averaged 25.8 points per game at his peak. Injuries derailed the back half of his prime and was one of the reasons why the Paul George-led Indiana Pacers didn't get through the LeBron-Miami Heat juggernaut. However, if Granger had been healthy in the 2012-13 season, those Pacers that forced the Heat to a game seven in the Eastern Conference Finals might have been headed to the NBA Finals
TyTy Washington Jr.
FiveThirtyEight projects TyTy Washington Jr. as an “Ok prospect” with a peak WAR of 1.8. That’s not a useless player, but not a player that you want starting or playing heavy minutes. However, TyTy’s projection shouldn’t be too concerning.
Washington had lottery buzz halfway through his freshman season at the University of Kentucky, but an ankle injury slowed him down, and his draft stock plummeted. Even with the injury, Washington’s availability with the 29th pick was a bit of a surprise, and while the Rockets capitalized, it hurts his projections, as draft position is taken into account.
Washington has an interesting and diverse set of player comps. His number one player comp is Dejounte Murray, followed by Corey Joseph, Tyrese Maxey, Marquis Teague, Josh Green, Nico Mannion, Jahmi’us Ramsey, Tyler Ennis, Jordan Farmar, and Jrue Holiday.
If Washington is the next Murray, Maxey, or Holiday, the Rockets will be ecstatic, but there is a longer list of league average to replacement level players. If he comes somewhere in between, that’s still a great player capable of starting or being an impact bench player.