2022 NBA Draft Film Room Analysis: Jabari Smith Jr.

Josh Cohen
Digital News Manager

Some have described Jabari Smith Jr. as a 6-foot-10 Ray Allen. Not only is his jump shot pretty, but his length makes it almost impossible for defenders to contest. Unique for someone his height is that he shoots the long ball just as well on the move as he does stationary.

Interesting about him, too, is that at Auburn he took most of his shots away from the paint, which depending on viewpoint and basketball philosophy could be a good thing or a bad thing. Nearly 75 percent of his shot attempts came from either the mid-range or from beyond the arc, while the remaining 25 percent came in the paint or right at the rim. 

He made 42 percent of his 3-pointers on 188 attempts. He was particularly money from the 3-point wings, connecting on 48.7 percent of his 39 tries from the right wing and 45 percent of his 60 attempts from the left wing. Many believe he will be a dream teammate in the NBA for high-usage paint attackers because opponents will have to pick their poison. If they choose to collapse in the paint, Smith could end up wide open for many kickout threes. If they stay home on Smith, teammates will have more space to attack the basket. 

Another key aspect of the recently turned 19-year-old’s game is his ability to consistently knock down shots with defenders swarming him, either from the mid-range or from 3-point range. There were times this past season at Auburn where two or even three defenders were draped all over him, and yet that didn’t deter him from taking the shot. Obviously, his length is a big factor, as nobody really at the college level could get high enough to obstruct his view of the basket. 

As mentioned in this strengths and weaknesses article, there’s something very Brandon Ingram-esque about Smith when he searches for space in the mid-range. Though he doesn’t have the same ball-handling skills or creativity that Ingram possesses, Smith uses a blend of pump fakes and jab steps to get his defenders out of position and carve out just enough room to rise and fire. Often, he’ll turn a post-up into a face-up, and then take a dribble or two in either direction before squaring up for a jumper. He shot the same percentage (40 percent) on both short twos and long twos. Don’t be surprised if he draws a lot of fouls while in the act of shooting at the next level and connects on many of them, as he’s exceptional at staying balanced despite the contact.  

While he wasn’t a premier rim protector in college, he did block 35 shots, 11th most in the SEC. His Auburn teammate and fellow NBA Draft prospect Walker Kessler led the nation in blocks with 155 of them. With that in mind, it’s possible that because the Tigers had such an elite backline defender with Kessler, they didn’t rely on Smith to guard the basket as much. What it did do is allow Smith to use his supreme lateral quickness and length to defend the perimeter at a high level. Not only does he move his feet well and use textbook technique to stay in front of opponents, Smith plays with incredible passion on that end of the floor. He truly seems to enjoy shutting down the other team’s top scorers and creators. 

Somewhat underrated about the Atlanta native is his persistence on the glass. He compiled the third-most defensive rebounds in the SEC this past season with 220 of them. You might not think that’s that big of a deal considering his stature. But because he’s more of a perimeter-oriented player, it shouldn’t be assumed.

Important to note as well is that he can be effective playing at any pace. Some of his made baskets at the rim came in transition.

But because of his scoring prowess in the half court – either as an isolation threat or as an off-ball target – he’s very functional in an offense that’s more methodical and deliberate.

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Video courtesy of Auburn University Athletics