If you watch Jabari Smith Jr.’s film, you’ll immediately see why he is regarded as a surefire top 3 pick in this year’s draft. He reminds me of numerous players I created in NBA 2K growing up, a 6’10” athletic forward with a lights-out shooting ability. It almost seems like he was created in a lab for today’s NBA. Smith Jr.’s great play at Auburn garnered him 1st Team All-SEC honors and the SEC Rookie of the Year, joining the likes of Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, Julius Randle, and DeMarcus Cousins who also earned the award. In a potential scenario where the Knicks move up in the lottery and make a “Godfather offer” for Donovan Mitchell including their 2022 1st round pick, Jabari Smith Jr. is the guy I’d love to see the Jazz come away with.
Weight: 220 lbs.
Per Game: 16.9 PTS, 7.4 REB, 2.0 AST, 1.1 STL, 1.0 BLK
Per 40 Minutes: 23.6 PTS, 10.3 REB, 2.8 AST, 1.5 STL, 1.4 BLK
Shooting Splits: 42.9% FG / 42.0% 3P / 79.9% FT
Advanced Stats: 57.0 TS%, 27.6% USG, 5.6 WS, 11.1 BPM (7.4 offensive, 3.8 defensive), .227 WS/40
Jabari Smith Jr.’s shot-making ability combined with his height will ensure his presence on NBA rosters for years to come. The thing that is most exciting about watching Jabari’s film is that he already possesses tough-shot-making ability. He’s not just hitting wide-open 3s, he’s shown the ability to hit them with a hand in his face consistently. Jabari also has a very well-developed iso/post-up game for a 19-year-old. He can fade away over both shoulders, loves using a jab-step to create space for pull-up jumpers, and shows flashes of punishing bigger defenders with a nice first step.
The thing about Jabari Smith Jr. that will be music to Jazz fans’ ears (especially after the series against the Mavericks) is that he is a very nice perimeter defender. He has great lateral quickness, projecting as a player who could switch 2-4 in the NBA and probably even stays in front of some point guards as well. Smith Jr. also looks good as an off-ball defender, he knows his rotations and isn’t a guy that gets lost on that end very often.
Offensively there aren’t many weaknesses to Jabari Smith Jr.’s game. He will need to improve his handle to reach maximum effectiveness in the NBA. Another small red flag is Jabari’s below-average shooting numbers in the paint/at the rim. There are times when it seems like the touch and finishing ability around the rim are lacking. I would tend to think that this number jumps up as Jabari gets stronger and the paint opens up in a modern NBA offense, but these things are not guaranteed.
The biggest thing that will determine whether or not Smith Jr. becomes a star in this league or not is his playmaking. Jabari had a very high 27% usage rate in his freshman year, but only averaged 2.8 assists per 40 minutes. There is no doubt that he will have the ability to draw doubles and bend defenses with his unique scoring ability in isolation - the question is will he be able to make teams pay by consistently finding the open man or making the right pass when needed. He showed some flashes of this during his time at Auburn, but he will need to improve that aspect of his game to make the jump from NBA All-Star to an All-NBA level player.
The only way that I see Jabari Smith Jr. ending up on the Jazz roster is if they trade Donovan Mitchell or possibly Rudy Gobert, although I don’t know if Gobert fetches a top 3 pick in the current trade market. Jabari appears to be a great foundational piece for a team that hits the reset button, but it could also be possible that a frontcourt of Smith Jr. and Gobert is good enough to get you to the playoffs next year (think Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley in Cleveland). If this off-season is truly the end of the Mitchell-Gobert era in Utah, I imagine that Ryan Smith and Danny Ainge would be very excited to kick off a new era of Jazz basketball with Jabari Smith Jr. as the centerpiece.
Michael Porter Jr., Rashard Lewis, Kevin Garnett
All statistics from Sports-Reference.com