Less than a minute into his first NCAA Tournament game, Jabari Smith exhibited the kind of professional player he could be.
This was not his thunderous dunk, though that was another impressive display. Rather, the Auburn forward, who has the best NBA odds to be taken first overall this month, defended a drive and forced a miss by Jacksonville State early during a first-round March Madness clash. Smith then rebounded and instantly kicked out to begin a fast break.
As players scrambled back to the other end, Smith found his spot at the top of the key. The ball was passed back to him, and with little resistance, the 6-foot-10 freshman knocked down a 3-pointer.
In a modern NBA where positional versatility, fast pace, and perimeter shooting are paramount, Smith could be a star.
Jabari Smith Draft Odds
Smith has the leading NBA Draft odds to be selected first overall at -500. That’s ahead of Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren (+250) and Duke’s Paolo Banchero (+1000).
The Orlando Magic have the first overall pick after going 22-60 a year ago. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Houston Rockets pick second and third, respectively.
Jabari Smith Draft Pick Projection
Smith has the best NBA Draft betting odds to be taken first for good reason.
The Magic need contributions in nearly every way. They were 29th in offensive rating, 19th in defensive rating, 26th in player impact estimate, and 28th in net rating this season.
They were also 28th in true shooting percentage and 23rd in rebounding percentage. Orlando needs a player who can influence games in several ways and one who has the most potential — the franchise isn’t in a position to win consistently by next season.
Smith likely fits that mold the most. While Holmgren and Banchero are worthy of consideration, Smith’s scoring and rebounding skills would help the Magic in the future.
Jabari Smith Stats
Smith averaged 16.9 points per game during his only season at Auburn to lead the team. Against Vanderbilt in February, he recorded a career-best 31 points while shooting 7 for 10 from the 3-point arc.
Smith made 42.9% of his shots and 42% of his 3-point attempts. He paced the Tigers, who finished an SEC championship season with a 28-6 record, with 79 made 3s. He broke the school freshman record with made 3s, as he made at least one in 29 consecutive games.
Smith added 7.4 rebounds, two assists, 1.1 steals and one block per game. He was fifth in the SEC in scoring and sixth in rebounding, the only freshman to reach the top 10 in both categories.
He concluded the 2021-22 season as a consensus All-American. In addition, he received the most All-American honors in Auburn history with six.
Smith was an All-SEC selection, an SEC All-Freshman and the SEC Freshman of the Year and earned National Freshman of the Year accolades. He was also a finalist for the Karl Malone Power Forward of the Year Award and John R. Wooden Award.
Jabari Smith Draft Profile
Smith’s versatility is most impressive. With his height and length, he could be a dream stretch 5 for a team like the Magic.
As proven by his numbers, Smith shoots well from anywhere on the floor. He can shoot off the dribble or spot up from the perimeter.
The Auburn forward used his height to his advantage. He easily located outlets over the top of players double-teaming him. He also could shoot almost anytime he wanted because hardly anyone at the college level could interrupt his release.
That does leave questions about how this translates to the NBA. For example, can he create his own shots when 7-footers are closing out on him?
Smith’s ball handling should provide an answer. He often brought the ball up as needed, even in transition. When defenses tried to prevent him from any perimeter shooting, Smith seemed comfortable driving. And hardly anyone could contest his dunk attempts once he gained speed.
He also shot off crossovers and other dribble moves, so creating space for himself shouldn’t be an issue.
His sharpshooting will create chances for whoever drafts him to space the floor. But he can also operate out of the post or from midrange.
Smith’s dazzling footwork helped him find opportunities for turnaround fadeaways. He also has a hook shot he can turn to.
Despite weighing 220 pounds at his height, Smith is also physical and active on defense. His length and instincts help him swat shots and tip passes.
Smith brings plenty of traits that would fit a first overall selection.
Colton Pool is a Web Content Writer for BetMGM living in Bozeman, Montana, focusing on the NFL and NBA. Previously, he covered Montana State football at the Bozeman Daily Chronicle and worked at newspapers in his home state of North Dakota. He graduated from North Dakota State in 2015.