Report: Jabari Smith Has 'Become a Pretty Big Favorite' to Go No. 1 in 2022 NBA Draft

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJanuary 21, 2022

AP Photo/Butch Dill

Auburn forward Jabari Smith could become the No. 1 pick in the 2022 NBA draft after an impressive start to his freshman season. 

"Among the lottery teams I surveyed, he’s become a pretty big favorite among most of them," Chad Ford of NBA Big Board wrote of Smith.

Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren and Duke's Paolo Banchero were considered the top two names in the class coming into the season, and Ford notes these two "still have support" among NBA teams. The upside could still be enough for Smith to become the first player off the board.

"He's not as polished as Banchero or a rim-protecting unicorn like Holmgren, but he’s got an elite combination of size, athletic ability and one of the sweetest jumpers in the draft," Ford added.

Smith was considered the No. 7 player in the class based on 247Sports' composite rankings, but his production has elevated his profile.

The 6'10" forward fills up the stat sheet with averages of 15.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.0 blocks per game, hitting 43.5 percent of his three-point attempts. His play is a major reason Auburn is 17-1 and No. 2 in the latest Associated Press poll.

Beyond his numbers, scouts have been impressed by Smith's ability to impact the game on both ends. It's rare to see a player his size who can score from anywhere and is capable of disrupting opponents on the other end.

The top pick is still far from settled in this class, with Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman listing Holmgren as the No. 1 prospect ahead of Smith and Banchero. ESPN's Jonathan Givony has Smith as the No. 3 player in the class.

Holmgren's defensive ability cannot be ignored, as he sports averages of 3.3 blocks and 8.5 rebounds per game. Banchero has also looked like a star at times while scoring 18.1 points per contest for the Blue Devils.

The one thing we do know is this is a good year for teams to add frontcourt talent at the top of the draft.


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