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Leading up to the NBA draft on June 23, Yahoo Sports will highlight top prospects. Today's prospect is Auburn forward Jabari Smith.
Who is Jabari Smith?
Smith is a 6-foot-10 forward who averaged 17.1 points, 7.4 rebounds, two assists and 1.1 steals in 29 minutes over 34 games for the Auburn Tigers. Prior to committing to Auburn, Smith was the No. 2 recruit coming out of high school (behind Chet Holmgren) and chose to play for the Tigers over North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, LSU and Alabama.
During the season, Smith showcased an arsenal of skills that included consistent 3-point shooting, defensive versatility and the ability to move and play multiple positions. He played alongside the best shot blocker in the country, Walker Kessler, and still found ways to impact the game defensively while sliding down for double teams off the weakside block and contesting shots with his 7-foot-1 wingspan.
Head coach Bruce Pearl knew Smith was something special before he even got to campus.
“What people do not realize is how long and how disciplined he has worked over the last four or five years to get to this point,” Pearl said on Tiger 95.9 FM in Auburn. “It started in high school, he was a '6:30 in the morning, everyday, get up and get in the gym' guy. Who does that at 14, 15 and 16 years old? This is what an NBA All-Star looks like, and that’s why he’s going to go No. 1.”
Jabari Smith's strengths as a pro
The Orlando Magic desperately need help with perimeter shooting, after connecting on only 33% of their 3-point attempts last season. Smith is the best shooting big in this draft class and knocked down 42% of his threes last season, leading the SEC in 3-point field-goal percentage. He's more than just a catch-and-shoot big, taking players off the dribble and shooting over the top of the defense when his man goes under the screen.
Smith is favored to go No. 1 overall and is one of the most NBA-ready players in the draft with his size and the way his skills translate. His mobility on defense, switching between guarding positions one through four, will make him a huge asset at the next level.
Jabari Smith's questions at the next level
The only thing that sets Paolo Banchero and Holmgren apart from Smith is the way they can create for themselves off the dribble.
Smith wasn't the player with the ball in his hands at the end of the shot clock and struggled getting past guards off the switch when he tried to get downhill. This is an area of improvement and something Smith will have to work on to add to his all-around game.
What scouts are saying
NBA scouts love Smith's size and what he brings in terms of consistent outside shooting. The NBA is now a shooter's game, and Smith is the first prospect to come along in quite some time who has size and long-range shooting.
"Jabari can really stretch the floor with his outside shooting and has made strides on defense improving his rebounding as the season went on," a Western Conference scout told Yahoo Sports. "He's still young and will grow into his body but won't lose any of his mobility."
His ceiling is high as a future star and will be an early favorite for Rookie of the Year next season. His immediate impact makes him the safest pick at No. 1 and a player who can help the Magic get over the hump as they continue to rebuild. If Smith does hear his name called first on June 23, he will be the first No. 1 pick in Auburn program history.