The NBA Draft Combine recently came to an end, and while many players were there to be evaluated and hopefully elevate their draft stock for next month’s draft. The growing belief was the top three picks were set prior to the event. While the expected top three picks of Jabari Smith (Auburn), Paolo Banchero (Duke), and Chet Holmgren (Gonzaga) didn’t participate in the combine, they’re still firmly entrenched in those spots. The trend now is for top prospects not to participate in these kind of events.
With the combine and NBA draft lottery now complete, however, there seems to be a little more clarity and a consensus opinion that Smith will go No. 1. The 6-foot-10 Smith, possesses great size and an excellent shooting touch which he displayed during his one season, down on “the Plains.” The former McDonald’s All-American also showed some real defensive ability as pertains to switching and rim protection in head coach Bruce Pearl’s multi-faceted defensive looks.
Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr., the potential top pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, sits down with @Stadium: “Yes, I believe I’m No. 1.” On the values learned from an NBA dad, translating in a position-less era, much more. pic.twitter.com/5xPzvHqGaB
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 18, 2022
ESPN draft expert Jonathan Givony, who’s been following all things about the draft, had this to say about Smith.
“Most NBA teams firmly believe that’s a formality and that Smith is all but assured to become the top pick. Smith for his part, appears thrilled with that development.
“So is Holmgren over his looming marriage with the Oklahoma City Thunder, which is also the overwhelming expectation from NBA executives with whom we spoke with at the draft combine.”
War Eagle🦅 https://t.co/F4PZn2TWD5
— Jabari Smith Jr (@jabarismithjr) April 5, 2022
Smith Over Holmgren And Banchero? Why? Mo Bamba
Smith was named SEC Freshman of the Year and a consensus All-American after averaging 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.7 assists. His 42% from three was tops in the SEC.
Smith‘s all-around offensive skill set would help an Orlando Magic team that ranked 29th in total offense and 28th in three-point shooting. His range shooting would complement young attacking guards Markelle Fultz, Jalen Suggs and Cole Anthony. Smith, 2021-22 first-team All-Rookie selection Franz Wagner, and three-year pro Chime Okeke — another former Auburn Tiger — would give the rebuilding Magic three knockdown shooters on the wings.
Another reason for taking Smith over Holmgren and Banchero is while Holmgren provides better rim protection, and Banchero a little more physicality, the Magic have two young, physically imposing rim protectors already in Mo Bamba and Wendell Carter Jr.
Those putrid offensive numbers scream out for help on that end, and Smith’s game translates best to the NBA over the aforementioned Holmgren and Banchero.
War Eagle. Miss the jungle💕💕appreciation post🦅 pic.twitter.com/8IzYhb9ZHi
— Jabari Smith Jr (@jabarismithjr) May 23, 2022
Smith’s Versatility Is A Unique Find
In his one season at Auburn Smith displayed that versatility which teams crave on both ends, but it’s his ability to guard positions 1-5 that really stood out and surprised many.
Following the NBA draft lottery, Givony explained why Smith to Orlando is a great fit.
“The Magic are loaded with young talent on the perimeter and could very well look to the frontcourt, where much of this draft’s high-end talent is concentrated. The Magic struggled to space the floor effectively last season, and Smith is arguably the most dynamic shooter in the college game, converting 42% of his three-pointers despite standing 6-foot-10.
”He’s also a highly versatile defender who plays with outstanding intensity, switching all over the floor with quick feet and impressive energy, giving the Magic the ability to play in a variety of lineup configurations with their many existing pieces.”
— Jabari Smith Jr (@jabarismithjr) May 18, 2022
Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl called Smith “the most talented player I’ve ever coached, no question.”
Looks like the NBA front office executives and scouts see it that way too.