How the Houston Rockets and Jabari Smith Can Unlock the NBA’s Potential


Houston striker and the No. 3 pick in the 2022 NBA draft Scored 22 points and seven assists in the A’s narrowly losing to the defending champion, marking a career-high scoring night as he made things difficult for the Golden State Warriors on both ends of the field. Smith’s first professional campaign has been uneven so far. Sunday night was the clearest example of his potential in the NBA.


“[Those are] Some of the greatest players have ever done it there,” Smith said after Houston’s 127-120 loss. “Definitely a confidence booster there and knowing I can compete with some of the greatest players.”

A season-best effort from Smith continued his lead on the offensive end of the floor after a slow start. Smith enters Wednesday and averages just 10.9 points per game, fourth among all rookies. He shoots 33.3 percent from the floor and 30.2 percent from three, a stark contrast to his mark of 42 percent from three during one season at Auburn. Smith is still well respected by defenses as a groundskeeper. But during his first 15 starts, Smith struggled to convert much of his open appearance.

We shouldn’t derive too many percentages in such a small sample. Although, before Sunday night, you can see a little frustrated habit. Smith’s usual go-ahead paused as shooting backed off after Halloween. his frequency cost missiles Down the stretch loss to Indiana on November 18, with travel in the final minutes, but all but ending any potential comeback.

Smith looked like a different player on Sunday night. He shot with conviction, burrowed three times for only the fourth time in his career, and was more than just a consistent shooter. You won’t see many 6-foot-10 players seem to cruise seamlessly from the screen to three players over the switch.

Smith isn’t solely responsible for his offensive production. Rockets coach Stephen Silas Last week he indicated his desire for more driving and kicking action from the guards Galen Green And the Kevin Porter Jr., which in turn would provide more open looks for Smith. Plus, the Houston coaching staff continues to push for a faster pace in order to create more easy combos. Smith has received a number of open appearances as a trailer option in quick breaks, a trend Silas said he hopes will continue in the coming weeks.

The way to [Smith] The better and more opportunities, Silas said, are to push the ball in, get the ball into the paint, reach for kicks and kicks and clear the ground well. This leads us to share the ball, which results in players having more opportunities with fewer play calls.

“It’s just a better way to play.”

Smith should see his shooting percentage approach league average as the season progresses, and it’s possible that he’ll stand as one of the best in the game at shooting sooner rather than later. Despite high lottery selection, diversifying experts is not the end goal. Smith’s biggest hurdle at the moment is his inability to generate his own shot off the rebound, one of the few flaws in his pre-draft scouting report. Such a concern has surfaced as early as 2022-23, though Smith has also shown progress in this regard. He blew shutouts against Golden State on Sunday, showing the kind of grit he’s been lacking over a number of games early in the season.

Continuous development in creating his shot is critical not only to Smith’s development, but also to building Houston’s roster over the next decade. Even Rockets assistant coach John Lucas hinted at a possible future where Smith would slide forward, helping create the kind of massive lineups we saw with Evan Mobley, Garrett Allen and Laurie Markkanen in Cleveland last season. These electives can be a boon for Houston, especially if it’s a A certain French teenager It comes aboard next June.

“I suspect [Smith] He will also be able to play three mini-games somewhere [down] “Line. He can handle the ball better than people think,” said Lucas.


Jabari Smith Jr., #1 of the Houston Rockets, hits Kelly Olynyk #41 of the Utah Jazz during the second half of their game at Vivint Arena October 26, 2022 in Salt Lake City Utah (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

Chris Gardner/Getty Images

The Rockets are encouraged by early returns on their latest lottery pick despite their modest numbers so far. Already highlighting the All-Defense potential many attributed to him prior to the draft, Smith isn’t just an impressive weak-side shot blocker. Silas marveled at Smith’s defensive prowess on Sunday as he highlighted the versatility of the Auburn product.

“[Smith] “Interchangeable in the four, he can play cover in the five,” said Silas. “He helps out his teammates, he’s tall and athletic, he fills in the gaps. … In terms of his instincts and the things he can do, he’s going to be a very good player in this league.”

Sunday night represented a step up for Houston as Smith, Porter and fellow rookie Terry Eason put in standout performances. The Rockets are in the throes of rebuilding at the moment, with milestones being tracked individually rather than in league standings. A long-distance lens is essential, and it’s something Silas says he brings Smith to life almost daily. Silas blasted a number of players on Saturday who made All-Star appearances after slow starts to their careers, including Steve Curry and – in an apt comparison – Chris Bosh.

Smith’s rookie year will always see plenty of flair, but Sunday provided a brief picture of what kind of player he could be.

“For us to keep going, we’re going to need his progress,” Silas said. Tonight was a good move for him.

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