mars 26, 2023

Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. ‘going crazy right now’ for Rockets

2 min read

The Houston Rockets’ young core has taken its lumps this season, as evidenced by the team’s last place standing in the Western Conference. Rookie Jabari Smith Jr. — the third overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft — has had an especially rough year. 

In March, however, the light went on for the 19-year-old from Auburn. Through eight games, Smith is averaging 16.8 points and 7.4 rebounds and shooting 52.1% from the field.

« He’s going crazy right now. He’s in that mode, » Rockets guard Jalen Green told the media after Monday’s win over Boston. « I’m happy for him ’cause we know the real Jabari and he’s showing it right now to everybody, everyone who doubted him, the haters, everyone, he’s showing it right now. »

As a prospect, the 6-foot-11 Smith was lauded for his shooting ability (42% from three in college) and defensive potential.

For much of his rookie season, though, Smith struggled mightily with his efficiency on offense.

According to Basketball Reference, he has finished every month except December with a field goal percentage under 40%. His three-point shooting also went cold, as he shot under 30% from behind the arc two months in a row, including just 17% in 12 games in January. 

As a result, his field goal percentage has hovered under 40% for much of the season.

Smith’s 63.3% true shooting in March is the highest he has posted in a month. Within this stretch, he recorded three straight 20-point, 10-rebound games and a 30-point, 12-rebound performance against Indiana on March 9.

As for how he gets his offense, his 24-point, 11-rebound game against Boston serves as a template. Through a mix of catch-and-shoot threes, shots at the rim and the occasional pull-up three-pointer, he made nine of his 11 attempts in the Rockets’ 110-109 win.

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