The Houston Rockets made a major boost to their core by using the No. 3 overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft to select Jabari Smith Jr. out of Auburn. The 6-foot-10 forward possesses an impressive combination of physical tools with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and incredible lateral quickness.
“I feel like defense is my greatest attribute,” Smith said. “Being able to guard multiple positions, defend the rim, and make things hard for players who play like me. I feel like I am the best matchup as someone who can shoot and get to different spots.”
During the NBA Summer League, Smith put all of his tools into great use on the defensive end for the Rockets. He showed an impressive ability to make an impact as the low-man as a weak-side help defender, to switch and guard multiple positions at a high level, handle ball screen coverages, and just generally make plays with his instincts and quick hands.
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“I want him to explore his game,” Silas told ESPN. “I do not want to put him in a box. His shooting ability is going to be huge for our group. And mixing him in with the other guys we already have, Jabari will be able to benefit from playing alongside the guys who can make plays for him.”
The Rockets ranked 29th in opponent points per possession (1.045) last season. They struggled mightily in handling pick-and-roll coverages and guarding isolation possessions. Jabari Smith Jr. should help in both areas significantly, but for the defense as a whole with his paint presence and switch-ability. The long-term impact will be intriguing to monitor.
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