Jabari Smith Jr. was a dynamic freshman at Auburn last season as he led the Tigers in scoring and hit 42% of his 3-pointers for a team that went on to earn a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Auburn coach Bruce Pearl has gone as far to say that he’s the best shooting big man in college in more than a decade.
Stats back that claim up, too. He’s the second 6-foot-10 or taller forward to make at least 100 free throws and 60 3s in a single season at the college level, joining Kevin Durant, who was (and still is) a generationally good scorer – and future Hall of Famer. Smith Jr.’s a deadeye shooter. As a spot-up threat he rated in the 94th percentile last season according to Synergy data. He was well above average as a catch-and-shoot scorer as well, rating in the 85th percentile.
Creativity with his shot does give rise to some questions – outside of dribble-jumpers and catching to shoot, he’s pretty limited getting to his shot – but guess what? Smith Jr. is a generationally talented shooter for his 6-foot-10 size. The shot variety we saw in spurts will come eventually. He’ll add more weight to his frame and more zest to his game. It’s why early indications are the Magic, who hold the No. 1 pick, have reportedly locked in on him as their top target with the pick as they look to add to their young and exciting core in Orlando. .
A scout’s take
We asked NBA scouts, giving them complete anonymity, for their take on Smith.
“He doesn’t have much of a hole (in his game.) What he did and how much he continued to improve throughout the course of the year. I guess you can ask about the rebounding or if he can be your No. 1 on a championship team, but he also did a pretty good job of answering each of those questions the last month of the season.”
Listen to Gary Parrish and Matt Norlander analyze Smith’s skills on the Eye on College Basketball podcast.
Elite shooting threat with crisp, repeatable shot mechanics; made 42% of his 3-pointers as freshman at Auburn
Big man with a perimeter game; can create his own shot off the bounce
Versatile and mobile as a defender his size. Can defend the paint against bigs and capable of switching onto wings and holding his own on the perimeter
Polished offensive weapon who needs to add dribbling and passing polish to better round out his game
Good defender but a just-OK shot-blocker; at 6-10 his blocked-shots rate is more comparable to guards and wings than to bigs – possibly a product of playing next to the best shot-blocker in college hoops as a freshman (Walker Kessler) but also possibly a foreshadowing that his game at the next level may be as a combo forward rather than as a big
Better-shooting Jabari Parker
College numbers to know
- Second college freshman to ever make at least 70 3-pointers and 100 free throws in a season, joining Kevin Durant
- 247Sports Composite recruiting ranking: 5 stars, No. 7 player in the Class of 2021
- MaxPreps: Georgia High School Basketball Player of the Year in 2020-21