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NBA Draft Profile: Jabari Smith Jr.

Auburn forward Jabari Smith has all the skills to make instant contributions to the team that selects him.

Kentucky v Auburn Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

The Trail Blazers’ forgettable 2021-22 season is in the books and it is time to turn our attention to the 2022 NBA Draft. Unlike recent years, Portland possess multiple picks in this year’s process. After finishing the regular season with a 27-55 record, the Blazers enter the lottery draw with the sixth-best odds in the NBA. Buoyed by those odds, the Blazers are poised to exit the draft with the rights to a marquee prospect.

Today’s profile looks Auburn star Jabari Smith Jr. Armed with a modern offensive game and NBA-ready athleticism, Smith is a future star in the making.

Jabari Smith Jr.

  • Height: 6’10”
  • WT: 220
  • Wingspan: 7’1”
  • Shooting Hand: Right
  • Position: F
  • Age: 18
  • Projected draft range: 1-3

2021-22 Statistics

  • PTS: 16.9 | Per 40: 23.6
  • REB: 7.4 | Per 40: 10.3
  • BLK: 1.0 | Per 40: 1.4
  • STL: 1.1 | Per 40: 1.5
  • FG%: 42.9
  • 3P%: 42.0
  • FT%: 79.9

Strengths

Smith blossomed into a must-watch player in his lone year at Auburn. Buoyed by a rare blend of size and shooting touch, Smith torched opposing defenses. Smith’s exploits from beyond the arc drive his NBA potential. His shooting form is basically flawless. He doesn’t waste movements, his footwork is sound, and his release point allows him to hit contested jumpers. In transition, Smith was an elite trailer option. He routinely set up in position beyond the arc and smoothly stepped into open three-point attempts.

In set plays, Smith is a proven pick-and-pop operator. Defenders have to stick with him in those actions, or he will make them pay. Seriously, you cannot leave Smith open on the perimeter. Inside the arc, Smith’s high release point allows him to take an assortment of turnaround looks. He can spin and shoot over either shoulder. Smith is at home operating from the high post. He connected on over 50 percent of his attempts from the right elbow this season (per CBB Analytics).

Defensively, Smith’s length and athleticism allows him to pick up multiple assignments. He is comfortable is space and his lateral agility forces opponents to end their drives prematurely. In the post, Smith has a strong anchor. He can hold his own against traditional post players. Due to his elite athleticism, Smith is rarely in a bad position. Overall, Smith has the tools to fulfill multiple defensive roles at the next level.

Weaknesses

Smith is far from efficient inside the arc on offense. In one-on-one matchups, he rarely creates separation. Smith is still able to get into his shooting motion, but they are often heavily contested shots. His lack of consistency on dribble drives allows defenders to fully commit to close outs on the perimeter. When he drives into the lane, he is quick to end his dribble and settle for fadeaway jumpers. He managed to find consistent success from the elbows, but his effectiveness decreases as he moves closer to the baseline. Smith connected on just 23.2 percent of his 56 baseline attempts. At the rim, he registered a pedestrian 64.7 percent conversion rate (per CBB Analytics).

Smith is fairly limited in transition compared to his peers at the top of the 2022 class. Unlike Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren, Smith is far from comfortable starting a break on his own after securing a defensive rebound.

FG% At The Rim

Player FG% At The Rim
Player FG% At The Rim
Jabari Smith 64.7
Keegan Murray 73.1
Paolo Banchero 70.5
Jeremy Sochan 69.5
Chet Holmgren 87.6
Stats via CBB Analytics

2021-22 Season

Smith and Walker Kessler combined to form one of the best frontcourt tandems in the country last season. Led by their big fellas, the Tigers finished with a 28-6 record. Auburn earned a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, but fell victim to an upstart Miami squad in the second round. Smith recorded 10 points in the Tigers’ 79-61 loss to the Hurricanes.

Smith earned Second Team Consensus All-American and First Team All-SEC honors for his work as a freshman.

Overall Assessment

Smith has a rare blend of athleticism and shooting touch for a player his size. Defensively, he should be a plug-and-play option early in his career. Smith consistently avoided foul trouble and was effective in multiple situations. It is possible that his block numbers improve at the next level. With Kessler in place at the rim, Smith was forced out of the paint when playing defense in college.

Armed with his accurate three-point shot, Smith should fit as a stretch four immediately. If he improves in a few key areas inside the arc, Smith has the potential to evolve into a completely dominate force. When you weigh his strengths against his weaknesses, Smith emerges as a perfect high-floor and high-ceiling player. That blend makes him a prospect worthy of the No. 1 selection on draft night.

Off the court, Smith’s father played in the NBA for four seasons and continued to play professionally outside of the league until 2010.

Overall Fit

If the lottery balls fall in Portland’s favor, Smith could be the ultimate prize for the Blazers. Smith is both a safe pick and a high-upside prospect. That billing fits perfectly on a timeline that involves current franchise star Damian Lillard. If the Blazers get lucky enough to select Smith, they could turn their focus away from the power forward position in the offseason. Due to his pick-and-pop experience and defensive aptitude, Smith is an ideal player for a rotation that features Anfernee Simons and Lillard.

Smith has the skills, frame, and athleticism to blossom into a franchise cornerstone. When Lillard’s time as a player ends with the Blazers, Smith could be ready to take full control of the reins.