Jabari Smith Jr., who shot 42 percent from downtown in his one season at Auburn, has arguably the best long-distance shooting mechanics and touch for someone 6-foot-10 or taller ever coming into the draft. He drilled 79 threes, 10th most in a single season in school history. On Feb. 16 against Vanderbilt, he drilled seven triples, the second most ever at Neville Arena. While comfortable launching 3-pointers off the dribble, he was most accurate in catch-and-shoot situations in college and often used a jab step to create some separation from defenders. Also unique about him is that he can make threes coming off pindown screens, not something you usually see from 6-foot-10 guys. He was money from the 3-point wings in college, making 46 of his 99 attempts (46.5 percent) from the right and left wings combined.
There’s something Brandon Ingram-esque about Smith when he puts the ball on the deck and steps into a mid-range pull-up jumper. With that said, he’s not quite as smooth as Ingram nor does he possess the ball-handling skills to carve out much space. However, from a tactical standpoint, Smith excels at taking one or two dribbles going either direction, stopping on a dime and launching from mid-range. Often, he’ll turn a post-up into a face-up, use that signature jab step, and then rise and fire over shorter defenders. He has a fadeaway jumper in his arsenal as well. He’ll need to be more efficient from mid-range in the pros, though, as at Auburn he shot just 32.2 percent from 10 to 15 feet out and 40 percent on long twos.
Smith is as pesky and tenacious as they come guarding the ball around the 3-point line. His lateral quickness makes it tough for even the nimblest opponents to elude him off the dribble and his length prevents them from getting clean jumpers off over him. Judging off his defensive technique and stance alone, it’s obvious he takes pride in shutting down the other team’s best scorers and creators. Using his 7-foot-1 wingspan, he gets his hands in the passing lanes quite frequently, and he had a propensity to poke the ball away from opponents on their drives.
Areas to Improve
Does Smith have enough of a “bag” to take over games offensively? His ball handling needs a lot of work, and he doesn’t seem to have a ton of creativity in his scoring repertoire. Also, does being such a good outside shooter deter him from attacking the basket? Only 12 percent of his shot attempts in college came at the rim (made 64.7 percent of those shots). He also only averaged 4.6 paint points per 40 minutes, which for someone his size is very low. Finishing in traffic was something he struggled doing consistently in college.
Smith had a tendency at Auburn to force up shots with a defender draped all over him. Sometimes there would be two, or even three defenders crowded around him, and he still chose to rise and fire rather than dish to an open teammate. He averaged just two assists per game, which was somewhat low considering his usage rate was 27.6 percent.
Ceiling: Rashard Lewis (shooting), Jaren Jackson Jr. (defending perimeter at 6'10), shades of Paul George/Brandon Ingram
Others he’s like: Michael Porter Jr., Harrison Barnes, and Al Harrington
Age: 18 (turns 19 on May 13)
Position: Power Forward
Hometown: Tyrone, Georgia
Strengths: 3-Point Shooting, Deep Range, Mid-Range Pull-Up, Tough Shot-Maker, Perimeter Defense, Deflecting Passes, Rebounding
Weaknesses: Attacking Basket, Drawing Fouls, Shot Settling, Rim Protection, Playmaking
College Roundup: Scored in double figures in 29 of his 34 games at Auburn, recorded seven double-doubles, and drilled the fourth-most 3-pointers in the SEC in 2021-22. He was named a consensus second-team All-American, won the Wayman Tisdale Award and earned both the NABC Freshman of the Year and the SEC Freshman of the Year honors.
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