The Washington Wizards have the 10th-best lottery odds for the 2022 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select....
2022 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Profile: Jabari Smith Jr.
2021/22 stats: 34 G, 16.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.1 spg, 1.0 bpg, 42.9 FG% (5.4/12.6), 42.0 3PT% (2.3/5.5), 79.9 FT% (3.9/4.8)
Player comparison: Jayson Tatum, Rasheed Wallace
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 1st, Sports Illustrated 1st, Ringer 1st, Athletic 1st, ESPN 2nd, NBADraft.net 2nd, Bleacher Report 1st
5 things to know:
-Smith Jr. is 6-foot-10 with a well-rounded skillset on both ends of the floor. He's one of the very best 3-point shooters in the draft, a solid rebounder and a versatile disrupter on the defensive end. He's got excellent speed and agility for his height with the ability to weave around defenders while taking the ball up the floor, particularly in transition. His ceiling as a two-way player appears to be very high and he seems to have the instincts and feel for the game to match his physical talents.
-He has a chance to be an elite shooter, especially for his size. Smith Jr. shot 42% from long range on 5.5 attempts per game, so with efficiency and volume. He made multiple threes in 25 of his 34 college games and went 7-for-10 against Vanderbilt in February. Smith Jr. also showed a knack for making long-range perimeter shots, which bodes well for the NBA.
-Smith Jr. has a high ceiling as a rebounder, which was masked by some inconsistency in college. He had nine games of double-digit rebounds, including 15 against Miami in the NCAA Tournament, but also six games with under five boards. Smith Jr. could carve out a career that sees him put up a few 20 and 10 seasons. An underrated skill of his is his passing, as he showed flashes of making plays for others especially out of the high post.
-Common criticisms of Smith Jr. include his relatively raw skillset creating off the dribble and his tendency to settle for outside jumpers. He will need to improve at attacking off the bounce to become the three-level star scorer he has the potential to be. But some of that may be overblown, as Smith Jr. is a fundamentally sound and structured player. Just because it doesn't look smooth, doesn't mean his offensive skillset isn't effective, which is the most important thing.
-Smith Jr.'s father, Jabari Smith Sr., played four years in the NBA, spending time with the Sixers, Nets and Kings. Smith Jr. is also the cousin of Kwame Brown, whom the Wizards selected with the first overall pick in 2001.
Fit with Wizards:
The Wizards would likely need to get the first overall pick to draft Smith Jr. and there is only a 3% chance of that happening, so it's not the most realistic scenario at this point. But let's say that they did get lucky and landed the Auburn star. He would be added to a deep group of forwards on the Wizards' roster highlighted by Kyle Kuzma and Rui Hachimura.
Those two, however, only have one year left on their contracts, so whatever logjam that would be there initially could be sorted out over time. And regardless, Smith Jr. is such a high-level talent, the Wizards would find a way to get him on the floor. He would help their two biggest needs of 3-point shooting and defense while raising the overall ceiling of the current roster significantly. They have one true star in Bradley Beal and maybe a second in Kristaps Porzingis, but Smith Jr. would present a unique level of upside and especially at his age.
The Wizards would hope to develop Smith Jr. into an All-Star caliber player in a short period of time to maximize the window of Beal's prime. And once Beal's best days are behind him, Smith Jr. would become a franchise centerpiece to lead them into the next era. At this point, all of this is a pipedream, but you can't count it out until the ping-pong balls are drawn on lottery night.