Why didn't Rockets' Jabari Smith Jr. make First-Team All-Rookie?
On Monday, the NBA's All-Rookie teams were announced and the Houston Rockets walked away with two players on the squad: forwards Tari Eason and Jabari Smith Jr. It wasn't so much a surprise that Eason made the Second-Team but Smith not making the First-Team became a topic of discussion.
This is because of where Smith was drafted, as he was selected with the third overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Being a top-three pick comes with expectations and Smith lived up to them, buy and large. So why exactly didn't he make the First-Team?
The widely accepted explanation centers around Smith's slow start to the season. It’s true that Smith struggled through much of the season, outside of the final 20 games in which he averaged 16 points and 8 rebounds on 47 percent from the field and 37 percent from deep, but he still finished third among rookies in double-doubles.
Should Rockets rookie Jabari Smith Jr. have made First-Team All-Rookie?
And furthermore he became the first rookie to ever put up 1000 points, 500 rebounds, 50 blocks, and over 100 threes made. Again, is that not good enough to make the first team?
He probably would have had much more of a case if his shooting splits were better, as he made just 40.8 percent of his shots and 30.7 percent of his threes on the year. In other words, he waited a little too late to get going.
And Smith certainly got penalized for the Rockets' losing, as he had better numbers than either of the forwards on the First-Team, but his team had by far the fewest wins, which undermined his 12.8 points and 7 rebounds. This also likely factored into the "empty stats" narrative that's plagued his Rockets teammate Jalen Green, which has led to constant ridicule and slander from the media towards Green (and has already started towards Smith).
All in all, the Rockets didn't quite have the necessary structure for Smith and he wasn't enough of a focal point within the Rockets' offense, making it even more impressive that he was able to catch rhythm and put together a well-rounded 2022-23.
Regardless of whether Smith was snubbed or not, he put closed the season on a high note, reassuring the franchise that they've identified a pillar and cornerstone. And more importantly, he was able to gain confidence, which he will carry over into his second season with the Rockets.