There's no question that just like last year's draft, the 2022 NBA Draft was once again loaded. Not only is there the potential for multiple franchise caliber stars at the top, but plenty of depth as the first round went on.
Paolo Banchero wound up the top overall pick after rumors swirled until the very last minute, and now sits as the favorite to win Rookie of the Year, but that doesn't guarantee a thing, especially with Jabari Smith Jr. lingering and playing with an extra chip on his shoulder after falling to No. 3 in Houston.
Smith not only went third overall in the draft but now has the third-best odds to win Rookie of the Year (+400 on BetMGM). Despite some early shooting struggles in Summer League, Smith started to find a rhythm as he's gotten used to the pace of play, while clearly learning from what went wrong early.
"I felt like I could have been more involved in the offense just off of me," Smith said following the loss to Banchero and the Magic. "Finding ways to get involved in the offense will come following the more I learn the system. I feel like I was involved for the most part. I have to make open shots and crash the glass more moving forward"
Smith had just 10 points in that debut, but his 19 points and 9 boards went along with a couple of steals and a block in his third game out against the Spurs, so the progress is coming.
Also, it's Summer League and if there's anything we've learned over the years, it's that overreactions are prominent this time of year.
Smith, like Banchero, is likely to have a huge role in Houston from Day 1, which can benefit his chances to put up the numbers you need to come out as the year's top rookie.
Yes, he'll have to share shots with bucket-getters like Jalen Green and Kevin Porter Jr., but having others around him that are weapons offensively will also open up plenty of looks for Smith as well.
He's also strong on the defensive end, and before you say that it's all about scoring here, just remember Scottie Barnes won last year and his defense was still his biggest strength.
The value now at +400 can't be overlooked if you see steady improvement from Smith, and you certainly wouldn't be wrong to invest in that this season.