Jabari Smith Jr. has found a home in the NBA after being selected with the 3rd pick in the 2022 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets. Jabari was widely expected to go either 1 or 2 in the lead-up to this year’s draft, but a last-minute jump up the boards for Paolo Banchero meant that Smith was going to fall a few picks below.
Even though Banchero and Holmgren went ahead of him, Smith was guaranteed to be a top-three pick. However, falling in the Draft board to two rivals has to make a player feel some type of way, and that was clear on Jabari’s face after the first two picks were announced..
Up until yesterday, Jabari was the favorite to go No. 1 overall, with many believing the Magic were sold on him. They must have given some assurances to the player but this ended up being a smokescreen for their real target all along, Paolo Banchero. OKC was not missing out on the chance to pair a center like Chet with their young core, meaning Banchero had no option left but to be drafted by Houston
Jabari should be happy, as he will definitely be a highlighted star on the Rockets. While he wouldn’t have minded sharing minutes with Franz Wagner due to their similar styles, playing in the more empty Houston frontcourt after they traded Christian Wood will give him a better chance to show his skills off. He would have been solid on any of the three teams.
His face told the story of being disappointed with the expectations one has for themselves. Jabari will bring this frustration into the season and can hopefully channel that energy into becoming Rookie of the Year and proving to the Magic and Thunder that they picked the wrong guys over him.