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2022 NBA Draft Profile: Jabari Smith Jr.

Jabari Smith Jr. is almost certainly out of reach, but he may be the best fit in the class for the Kings.
By | 48 Comments | Jun 18, 2022

Mar 17, 2022; Greenville, SC, USA; Auburn Tigers forward Jabari Smith (10) during practice before the first round of the 2022 NCAA Tournament at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

NBA Position: Forward

General Info: 18-year-old Freshman, played at Auburn University. From Tyrone, GA. Son of former Sacramento King Jabari Smith.

Measurables: 6’10, 225 lbs, 7’1 wingspan.

2021-22 Season Statistics: 16.9 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.1 SPG, 1.0 BPG, 1.9 TPG (34 games played, 28.8 minutes a contest), 42.9% FG, 42.0% 3P, 79.9% FT

All hyperlinks in this profile are video clips showcasing the skills discussed.

Jabari Smith Jr. entered his freshman season at Auburn as a promising sharpshooter who many hoped would thrive in the Tigers’ fast-paced offense and gritty, switch-heavy defensive system.

Considered a mid-lottery pick by most evaluators in November, Smith quickly rocketed up the 2022 NBA Draft boards by showcasing outrageous shotmaking talents and strong on-ball defense at a rare size for that combo of skillsets. While the 6’10 Smith has some significant areas for improvement in his offensive game that make him somewhat of an unusual selection at the top of the draft, his silky smooth deep shot and high motor on both ends of the court make him an easy prospect to bet on, and so much of his game will translate immediately to the NBA level. Smith is almost certainly out of reach for the Sacramento Kings at pick #4, but in my book, he’s the best fit and the best long-term talent for the Kings in this draft class.

It’s not hyperbolic to say that Smith is the best shooting big prospect that I have scouted. His rhythm, quickness, and body control on his shot are excellent, and his release is fluid and so high that it’s basically unblockable. He’s got a fadeaway shot that few players his age can master and he’s a truly dangerous shooter off the dribble. You couldn’t ask for a better floor spacer at the next level, and his efficiency numbers (per Synergy Sports) back that all up:

  • 45.2% on all spot-up shots, 94th percentile in the country (133 possessions).
  • 40.2% on all jumpshots, 84th percentile (241 possessions).
  • 40% on shots off the dribble, 85th percentile (105 possessions).
  • 41.4% on all catch-and-shoot shots, 84th percentile (133 possessions); a whopping 83% of his catch-and-shoot shots were considered “guarded” by Synergy. On “open” catch-and-shoot shots, he hit 65.2% on them, 100th percentile.
  • 79.9% on free throws, 164 attempts.

The fact that he was this efficient while leading a top 10 Auburn team in scoring and shot attempts with SEC defenders focused on him—and at just 18 years old—is incredible. And while he has some offensive concerns around the basket (more on that in a bit), it’s worth noting that he was that efficient while over 65% of his shots in the half-court were jumpshots. He’s an ELITE shooter, and he’ll be able to do this in the NBA from the jump.

Auburn absolutely relied on Smith’s shooting ability to make their offense work. The Tigers were 49th in the nation in three point attempts, but 114th in three point makes and 274th in three point percentage. Smith led the team in shots taken, and the next five Tigers on that list shot a combined 28% from three. Only one other rotation player on Auburn shot over 36% from deep. They needed Smith to shoot, both as a shot creator and off the catch.

The team also relied on Jabari as a safety valve on plays when they failed to get anything else going. As the impeccable Jerry Reynolds said on the Kings Herald podcast last week, “the guards he played with probably helped him less than any set of guards in the college game… they all thought they were Jaden Ivey.” If Wendell Green or K.D. Johnson couldn’t get anything going (and boy, did they try!), they’d often pass to Smith and let him figure it out… and when he can pretty much shoot over any defender, he’d often make it work. He finished in the 71st percentile for success in isolation plays this year.

So Smith has the hard part down; his shooting ability is absurd for his age, and given his size and pull-up ability, that shot will give him an exceptionally high floor in the modern NBA. But to fully capitalize on this golden shot, he has to improve on multiple areas with the basketball in his hands.

The obvious one is that he needs to find ways to put pressure on the rim. Only 32% of his shots in the half court came at the rim; on non-post-up plays, he shot just 52%, 48th percentile. It’s a weird shot diet for a 6’10 forward, but Smith doesn’t have anywhere near the same comfort, awareness, or touch at finishing around the basket as he does on jumpers. While he’s deceptively fluid on defense, that fluidity and top-end speed don’t show up as much on drives. He doesn’t have a dynamic first step and isn’t an explosive leaper; he had some highlight dunks, but he’s not a huge threat to finish above defenders in traffic.

Smith proved time and time again that his shot and size will give him a go-to creation move, so he’s got a baseline for success others with these concerns don’t; but if he wants to be a true three-level scoring threat and take full advantage of his shooting gifts, he needs to get much more comfortable and confident taking the ball to the basket, even if he doesn’t have the burst to ever be a big-time driver.

He also needs to continue to improve as a ballhandler. While he has highlights of dribbling up the court and launching a three off the bounce, I expect quick defenders will take advantage of his high dribble and clunkiness early in his career. Teams went at him when he was dribbling in the open-court.

Finally, Smith needs to continue to improve as a passer. He had his moments throughout the year that showcased both a flare and a willingness to make the right passes, but it wasn’t always consistent. Later in the year, he really started punishing double teams, but he’s got a ways to go with both his decision making and his ball control. Both Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren have better cases as primary (Paolo) or secondary (Chet) playmakers and ballhandlers than Smith does at this point. He’ll need to continue to show improvement here whether or not he’s cast as a #1 option on his future team.

Smith’s defensive tenacity and success, especially on the perimeter, will also be a big boon to his future NBA team. It’s weird to see a player at his size play so aggressive on the perimeter, but he’s deceptively agile for his size and uses his wingspan to full advantage. He’s a truly dangerous big-small defender, and was excellent at switching on pick-and-rolls and containing guards with his quick feet, quicker hands, and good footwork.

His defensive range is pretty remarkable, and he had strong moments guarding everyone from LSU big Tari Eason down to Alabama guard and leading scorer Jaden Shackelford. And the Synergy defensive numbers, while always a tad questionable, back up the eye-test – on all on-ball defensive situations, Synergy has him holding opponents to 25.7% shooting overall (95th percentile). He’s tenacious in a way that few one-and-done players are, and almost always plays opponents tough and with physicality. And while everyone remembers him getting posterized by Miami’s Isaiah Wong in the NCAA Tournament, he got him back a few possessions later. He’s not a defender who runs from challenges.

That said, it may take time before Smith is as effective against bigger forwards at the next level. He had some strong moments against physical, traditional bigs, so I wouldn’t call his post defense a weakness, but I think his tools shone brightest on the perimeter. And while the ideal fit next to Domantas Sabonis would be an elite rim protector, Smith shouldn’t be expected to solve their issues at protecting the basket early in his career. He had some strong one-on-one and help blocks, but this wasn’t his role (Walker Kessler nabbed an insane 4.6 blocks per game). He will need to continue to develop better instincts on this end.

Smith was also a promising rebounder at Auburn, snagging 10.3 rebounds per 40 minutes and showcasing his length and toughness on the defensive glass. He had just 0.9 offensive rebounders per game, but that’s hardly surprising given how little time he spent around the basket on offense. While he, like any young big prospect, may struggle with NBA size early on, I trust in his toolset and physicality to make him a strong board man.

Given his areas for improvement, Smith does seem an unusual choice for the draft’s top selection, or at least an unusual choice for most teams that end up with a #1 draft pick. Unless he shows exponential growth in his ability to score at the rim and as a playmaker—a possibility given his age and motor, but not a guarantee—he’s hardly a safe bet to be a huge three-level scoring threat or primary initiator at the next level. The Orlando Magic seem a team absent a true top scoring threat, unless Jalen Suggs or Cole Anthony take huge steps in their efficiencies next year. Their young team absolutely needs a big-time shooting threat (they were 28th in three point percentage last year), but absent a true creator showing up, Smith may be miscast as the offensive savior for the squad.

I don’t mean to undersell Smith’s potential here; his shooting ability is incredible given his age, and what he did at Auburn can translate immediately to the next level. He’s got an exceptionally high floor in the modern NBA game. But in reality, while I think Smith is absolutely in the same tier of prospect as Chet Holmgren, Paolo Banchero, and Jaden Ivey, I also think Jabari’s case for the #1 pick is more team dependent than Banchero’s or Holmgren’s. He’ll be best on a team that already has a primary shot creator in place, ideally somewhere with multiple playmakers on the roster that can utilize him as the most dangerous 6’10 off-ball creator possible, while bringing along his driving and playmaking skills. I think the best fit for Smith is and has always been the Sacramento Kings, and I think the best fit for the Kings is Jabari Smith Jr.

A team with De’Aaron Fox and Domantas Sabonis is begging for a shooting big with Smith’s efficiencies. Imagine a Fox/Sabonis pick-and-roll with Smith dragging attention to OR open in the opposite corner. Imagine pick-and-pop or screen and pop opportunities between Smith and Sabonis, or transition plays where Fox and Smith are bolting down the court together. Imagine what Mike Brown could do on defense with a guy at Smith’s size and on-ball switchability. Sacramento has the creators in place to optimize Smith without putting huge pressure on him to develop as a creator immediately.

I’ve been a fan of Jabari Smith for a bit now, and he’s been at the top of my KingsCentric draft board for months. I think his impact for the Kings, even/ideally as the third option, would absolutely make him worth drafting with a top pick. Sadly, it seems impossible that Smith will fall to the Kings at 4, and the price to move up to draft Smith—if a price even exists—would be very high. But if Monte McNair wants to swing for the stars and go all in on the Fox/Sabonis pairing, Jabari Smith Jr. is a near ideal fit with the Kings current core, and offers exceptional upside on both ends of the court.

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andy_sims
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June 18, 2022 2:24 pm

Another incredibly thorough and insightful analysis, Bryant.

I don’t spend a ton of time at other team sites, but this level of quality would be welcome. Hell, ESPN would be lucky to have something of this caliber.

SPTSJUNKIE
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June 19, 2022 8:28 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Agreed – 100% the type of article that keeps me coming back to this site. Incredibly insightful and nuanced.

UpgradedToQuestionable
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June 18, 2022 4:23 pm

These write ups of the draft prospects are like a row presents to unwrap as Thursday Draft Day approaches. I will re-read these at Summer League and season’s start as we see each of these players don NBA uniforms.

Great Stuff Bryant.

I’ve seen a comparison of JB2’s game to a Taller Klay Thompson, and I referenced that thought in my mind as I read your analysis.

Your discussion as to his Fit with Sacramento has me more comfortable with Keegan Murray at the same time though they are obviously different players – the shot making section is what I was keying on.

Thanks again for effort and time with the insights.

Last edited 1 year ago by UpgradedToQuestionable
RobHessing
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June 18, 2022 4:37 pm

All I want is for the Kings to add a player that is efficient, consistent, & entertaining as this series. Thanks for all of the heavy lifting, Bryant.

Amonk81
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June 18, 2022 5:11 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Great stuff. Did Bryant breakdown Ivey? Or did I miss that. So helpful in understanding these players.

Kingsguru21
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June 19, 2022 6:24 am
Reply to  Bryant

So when are YOU writing about Ivey and Holmgren? We can’t trust Brenden with an opinion. He wasn’t even able to watch ‘There’s Something about Mary’ in one sitting.

This is rather disturbing.

MichaelMack
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June 19, 2022 9:35 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Wait, what?

I don’t wanna judge Brenden on that, but its kinda hard not to.

Hamlet1989
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June 18, 2022 4:57 pm

I didn’t read it because I’m not all that excited about the next big star in Orlando. The draft is Thursday. Maybe profile someone in the #4 range. I’ve heard complaining about all the hard work you guys put in on profiles last year, just to have them draft Mitchell.
I’m a Kings fan! I would be more interested in a profile of Mo Bamba, or someone else who has a chance to land in Sac.

Hamlet1989
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June 18, 2022 6:29 pm
Reply to  Bryant

Good Job! Sorry to be critical. Still not reading it, no interest. Sorry to continue to be critical but, we’re still waiting on Ivey, and Holmgren. The conclusion on Murray was, “He’s not worth it.” (B.S.) Griffin apparently is completely uninteresting to the entire world. Banchero, and Smith Jr will both be gone.
Sorry I’m home sick, in a shitty mood. You guys are fantastic. I just wish someone would write something I could relate to. Thanks for your reply. I’m sooo bored!

Hamlet1989
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June 18, 2022 6:33 pm
Reply to  Hamlet1989

Again, you guys are all fantastic . Thanks for all your hard work.

WizsSox
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June 18, 2022 7:16 pm
Reply to  Hamlet1989

Hows It Going Jimmy Fallon GIF by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon - Find & Share on GIPHY

outrider
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June 18, 2022 8:31 pm
Reply to  WizsSox

Am I the only one who thinks Fallon is a complete tool, or are there others?

Hobby916
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June 19, 2022 3:10 am
Reply to  outrider

I don’t like him, never have.

Hippity_Hop_Barbershop
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June 19, 2022 7:30 pm
Reply to  outrider

Same here.

ManilaBayCleanerCrew
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June 19, 2022 3:15 am
Reply to  Bryant

How about doing one for Mathurin, Daniels and Sochan?

richie88
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June 19, 2022 11:47 am

I think there’s a very small chance that the Kings could draft Daniels, so I could see doing 1 for him, but I’d be shocked if they drafted Mathurin or Sochan.

andy_sims
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June 18, 2022 7:02 pm
Reply to  Hamlet1989

When you were a kid, did you ever go down to the library, and take out a book that you had no interest in reading? I suppose a closer analogue would include you writing on each page, “I DON’T CARE ABOUT THIS IN ANY WAY.”

“Dear Yelp,

“Not only do I not care about this restaurant, as a matter of fact, I’ve never even been to it. In the next three thousand words, I will…”

It’s Saturday. What the hell are you doing?

Hamlet1989
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June 19, 2022 9:46 am
Reply to  andy_sims

It’s Sunday now, I’m still sick (non-Covid), still in a shitty mood, and still pissed that Orlando won the lottery again! Why is there no limit on how many times a team can win or participate in the NBA lottery? Didn’t Cleveland win it like 3 times in 4 years? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of the lottery in the first place?
I’m not saying it’s ok to be so overwhelmingly negative. I’m saying I’m pissed off, and in a bad mood.
Also, Sac isn’t getting Smith Jr! Ivey sucks! And Griffin is worth the pick for his size and shooting alone.
I’m not sure how to address the library comment. Point taken, I guess.

Marty
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June 19, 2022 10:51 am
Reply to  Hamlet1989

I didn’t read it because I’m not all that excited about the next big star in Orlando. The draft is Thursday. Maybe profile someone in the #4 range. 

Personally I don’t like to waste too much time investing in knowing about draft picks, since they won’t be coming to my two teams. That’s why I love Bryan’t analysis, it’s my one-stop-shop to learn about who is about to enter the NBA, it’s all I need.

This site has a reputation of providing the highest quality NBA content, and articles like this provide valuable information that no doubt reaches far beyond the living rooms of Rio Linda.

HongKongKingsFan
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June 18, 2022 6:25 pm

Jabari Smith Jr.
Pls falls to #4 to us.

TheGrantNapear
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June 19, 2022 1:21 pm

Smith is the one of the big four who I see as having zero chance of falling to us. Would have been awesome if we landed the first pick, Smith would fit in snuggly with Sabonis and Fox and offer the potential of a true #1.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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June 18, 2022 8:32 pm

What a fantastic breakdown, Bryant. You are a treasure.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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June 18, 2022 8:40 pm

Just spitballing, but if there were a way to trade to #1, I’d be fine to include Fox in the deal.

#4, Fox, and a lottery protected 2023 for #1, Fultz, and Suggs. Yes, I would pull that trigger, because I think Smith Jr. is gonna be a multi-year all-star, but I don’t think Orlando would

rc50cal
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June 19, 2022 10:44 am
Reply to  Adamsite

I think I’d do that deal. Doubt Orlando would. Fox is at best a neutral asset with his contract.

richie88
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June 19, 2022 11:50 am
Reply to  Adamsite

I don’t think including Suggs in that deal is realistic.

TheGrantNapear
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June 19, 2022 1:23 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Exclude Suggs and include another one of their young guys and maybe Orl thinks about it. I just don’t think Fox’ stock is high in NBA circles.

BuffaloDiaspora
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June 18, 2022 9:19 pm

I hope Monte let Orlando know that if they are having any doubts whatsoever about him that the Kings have plenty of things to trade…

Kingsguru21
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June 18, 2022 10:35 pm

As always, thanks for these Bryant.

MidtownMike
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June 18, 2022 11:16 pm

If Paolo or Chet somehow go #1 I think OKC would consider a swap of Smith for Ivey plus package.

TheGrantNapear
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June 19, 2022 1:24 pm
Reply to  MidtownMike

If Chet goes number 1, Monte better be on the phone with OKC with an offer.

ManilaBayCleanerCrew
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June 19, 2022 3:13 am

I am all-in with Bennedict Mathurin!

I personally feel he is the best fit and a potential star for the Kings. His IQ, speed, shooting, passing, hustle and energy is a perfect fit for the team. With Mike Brown at the helm, he can easily teach him how to polish his skills and his defense. He has the size and speed to defend 1-3 and the hops and shooting to make the defense honest about him.

Jack
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June 19, 2022 6:35 am

I really like the post on Smith. I would like a post on how you guys think a possible trade involving the Kings and $4 to the Pistons for Grant and #5 might work out. If the kings like Murray then it could be Grant and Murray in the lineup. I also like the idea of trading Barnes to Clevland for Caris Levert and the #14 pick. Cavs really want Barnes and we get a really good shooting guard plus a pick that could get you Tari Eason or Jalen Williams.

TheGrantNapear
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June 19, 2022 1:26 pm
Reply to  Jack

I like the Clevland trade although I don’t think Clevland does it. Perhaps if we add a second rounder the trade becomes mor equitable.

Jack
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June 19, 2022 5:55 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

I like that.

rc50cal
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June 19, 2022 10:45 am
Reply to  Bryant

This is where I am too on Mathurin.

Kingsguru21
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June 19, 2022 11:51 am
Reply to  Bryant

You spend a disturbing amount of time being as thorough as possible, Bryant. I’m not sure whether to despise you or be jealous of you, honestly.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kingsguru21
alec26
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June 19, 2022 10:26 am

“Considered a mid-lottery pick by most evaluators in November, Smith quickly rocketed up the 2022 NBA Draft boards by …” He could also rocket down once training camps start. All the draft analysis is about finding the best prospect, but the best prospect isn’t necessarily going to be the best player. I consider Steph Curry to be a very good NBA player but at the time of the 2009 draft the Kings, who were desperately looking for a point guard, wrote Curry off as a small 2 guard and the real debate with their #4 pick at the time was waiting two years for Ricky Rubio to play out his Euro contract or picking Tyreke Evans, who could play right away. At the time I was happy with the Evans pick and he did win rookie of the year but I think we can all agree in hindsight that the Warriors got the better player picking #7 in the draft.

andy_sims
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June 20, 2022 7:58 am
Reply to  alec26

I’m going to suggest that by the time training camps start, no one is going to be looking at 2022 draft boards anymore.

andy_sims
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June 20, 2022 8:01 am
Reply to  andy_sims

And the bit about Curry is revisionist history. No one wrote him off. He simply wasn’t as good of a prospect at the time as Rubio or Evans. I was a fan of Curry, more for his ability to see the floor and get the ball where it needed to to, but no one, and I mean no one, was upset about taking Evans instead.

Kings-Rebuild
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June 21, 2022 9:18 am
Reply to  alec26

Many good points in your post. I’ll just add, when someone starts asking the question if a player is a 1 or 2 or a 3 or 4 or any positional comparison that’s a big red flag they have no clue about basketball. Many draft mistakes and you mentioned one big one have been made with that kind of analysis. Also when someone starts formulating a roster trying to force traditional positioning that’s another indication of someone locked into a archaic paradigm. We just say two teams in the finals putting teams on the floor in complete violation of traditional positioning. Yes you need shooters, ball handlers, defenders, rebounders and distributors on the floor but that can come in many different shapes and sizes. Take a look at how Lebron, Luka and Yoennis, are playing today and what traditional position do they fall into. Better yet how about Draymon Green.

rc50cal
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June 19, 2022 10:42 am

This is fantastic work! High level analysis.

God, I wish we could draft Smith!

richie88
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June 19, 2022 5:26 pm

Jabari seems like the BPA due to his defense & shooting. I’d be ecstatic if the Kings drafted him, but that doesn’t seem realistic.

Falconsfury
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June 19, 2022 6:04 pm

F@&$ it he deserves this win

bjelly.png
Kings-Rebuild
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June 20, 2022 10:26 am

As I’ve said often Smith will be the No. 1 pick without a doubt. Anyone considering taking Holmgren over Smith will look foolish when all is said and done. Any noise you hear about someone else going 1 is just that, noise. He has the length and footwork and agility to be an elite NBA defender.

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