Rockets' rising star makes top list heading into next season

2023 NBA Summer League - Detroit Pistons v Houston Rockets
2023 NBA Summer League - Detroit Pistons v Houston Rockets / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Heading into the 2023-24 season, Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. figures to be one of the more intriguing prospects in the league. Although Smith's rookie season wasn't all roroses (let's forget about the first 50 games or so), he flashed promise, particularly at the end of the season, showing NBA fans why he was considered the top overall prospect in the months leading up to the 2022 NBA Draft.

Smith closed out the 2022-23 season on a high note, averaging 15.8 points, 7.7 rebounds, 0.9 blocks, 47.2 percent from the floor, 36.5 percent from three, and 78.3 percent from the free throw line over the last 20 games. Smith followed that up with an outer-worldly Summer League stint in Las Vegas, where he averaged nearly 36 points, 7 rebounds, and four assists, and was clearly the best player to suit up in the Summer League (including Victor Wembanyama).

Smith drew praise from Lior Lampert of The Step Back, as he was named one of the five NBA players to look out for in 2023-24. Lampert's explanation is below.

"The talent and skillset are so easy to see when watching Smith. He was widely expected to be the No. 1 overall pick before the Magic ultimately decided to take Paolo Banchero, despite Banchero never even working out for the team.

After a rookie year filled with ups and downs, Smith himself has made it a goal to be more consistent and win Most Improved Player in 2023. The 6-foot-10 forward has a 7-foot-2 wingspan that enables him to shoot over virtually any defender and he has an extremely pure jump shot.

Entering his second season with some NBA experience under his belt should go a long way for the 20-year-old. Not to mention, the coaching upgrade from Stephen Silas to Ime Udoka should pay dividends for Smith and the rest of the young Rockets players moving forward."

Rockets' second-year forward receives his flowers

Smith stated that he's aiming to be more consistent next season, while adding that he's also been seeking to add more strength to his frame this offseason.

"With strength, that helps you with being able to put the ball on the floor, being able to take bumps, having to move and change directions.

Playing stronger and playing lower to the ground. I just feel like there wasn't one thing that I was focused on except for my body.

Getting stronger and just precise movements. I don't think I was weak last year, just need to throw my body around a little more and take bumps."

Smith could be in for a stellar 2023-24 season and could very well prove Lampart right.