The case for Jabari Smith as the #1 pick

Auburn’s Jabari Smith’s is making a strong case to be the top overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft.

I’ll admit, I was not super high on Auburn’s Jabari Smith coming into the season. Don’t get me wrong, I projected him as a top 10 pick. But, I did not see him being this good THIS fast. It only took a few games for Smith to solidify himself as legitimate contender to be the first player selected in June’s 2022 NBA Draft.

When I studied Jabari Smith’s high school and AAU film I a saw a fluid and agile big with the skill set to fit the modern day NBA.

However, I thought he settled for too many 3s, was allergic to the paint and lacked ideal explosiveness and vertical pop around the rim.

Some of those same concerns exist today, but Jabari Smith’s potential as a shooter and overall as a prospect outweigh those issues.

Prior to this season I believed Smith was a good shooter that would be a perfect complimentary floor spacer to an All Star guard and a major piece to a struggling franchise’s rebuilding puzzle.

Smith has proven to be elite shooter that is looking more and more like a franchise superstar that will need to be surrounded by complimentary pieces, and not the other way around.

Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren and Duke’s Paolo Banchero were the top two recruits in the 2021 high school recruiting class and the preseason favorites to be the top two players selected in the 2022 NBA Draft. In my opinion, it is now a three man race with Smith making a strong case to be the first to shake NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s hand on draft night.

As we approach the end of the college basketball regular season, Smith sits atop most mock drafts and big boards and likely created separation after his performances last week versus Vanderbilt and Florida.

Smith scored 31 points and drained 7-for-10 from deep on Wednesday night versus Vandy then followed up his career high performance with a 28 point, six rebound game where he also knocked down 4-for-5 attempts from 3 on the road against a scrappy Florida team.

Drilling 11 out of 15 triples over a two game stretch is remarkable, but I was more impressed with how he scored his points from deep.

I projected the 6’10” Smith as a pick-and-pop specialist that burns defenses with open looks and thought his best case scenario was for him to develop into modernized Chris Bosh.

But after seeing Smith effortlessly shoot 3s on the move, coming off screens, in transition and off the dribble, I started seeing similarities to dare I say? Kevin Durant.

Don’t get me wrong, Smith is more of a natural post player than Durant and lacks KD’s creativity off the dribble, but his combination of size and fluidity allows him to play both front court positions and possibly steal some minutes as a wing in a big lineup.

Not only is Smith a much, much better shooter than I expected, but he’s also shown flashes of being an effective low post scorer that can punish teams for switching and guarding him with a smaller defender.

He has a nice high release turnaround jumper that reminds me of a young Rasheed Wallace or LaMarcus Aldridge. As he gets stronger, I expect Smith to become more comfortable on the block and create matchup problems for opposing defenses.

I imagine some NBA general managers and scouts love Smith’s age, (he’s a full year younger than Holmgren) defined role as a lights out shooter, his defensive versatility and may see him as a franchise cornerstone.

I know I didn’t see it a few months back, but I am a believer today.

Check out this video (above) that takes a deep dive into how Jabari Smith has positioned himself as the top NBA prospect in this draft class.

Rafael Barlowe