Potential No. 1 Pick Jabari Smith Declares for 2022 NBA Draft in Video Announcement

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 5, 2022

AUBURN, AL - JANUARY 22: Jabari Smith #10 of the Auburn Tigers reacts late in the second half against the Kentucky Wildcats at Auburn Arena on January 22, 2022 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)
Todd Kirkland/Getty Images

Auburn star Jabari Smith is moving on after declaring for the 2022 NBA draft.

Auburn Basketball @AuburnMBB

"Auburn will forever be my home." - <a href="https://twitter.com/jabarismithll?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@jabarismithll</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WarEagle?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WarEagle</a> <a href="https://t.co/36zVCThC91">pic.twitter.com/36zVCThC91</a>

The move was widely expected since the 6'10" forward emerged as a candidate to land No. 1 overall this summer. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected him to be the top pick to the Orlando Magic.

Smith was the seventh-best player in 247Sports' composite rankings for the 2021 recruiting class, so he didn't climb up draft boards from obscurity. 

But Gonzaga's Chet Holmgren and Duke's Paolo Banchero frequently occupied the first two spots in mock drafts before the 2021-22 season tipped off. Last October, Wasserman had them at Nos. 1 and 2, respectively, with Smith following closely at No. 4.

As the year went on, Smith began muscling in on Holmgren and Banchero to cement himself as potentially the top player available.

In 34 games, the 18-year-old averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 1.0 blocks. He also displayed impressive range, shooting 42.0 percent from beyond the arc and knocking down 2.3 three-pointers per game.

One of his standout performances came in a Jan. 11 win over Alabama. He finished with 25 points, seven rebounds and four blocks, and he shot 3-of-6 from beyond the arc.

That month, Wasserman provided a stock report on Smith and noted he was challenging Holmgren for the No. 1 slot:

"What seemed like flashes of shooting and mid-range scoring early in the season have become regular occurrences for Jabari Smith. Scouts sound totally swayed by his consistent three-pointers and advanced rise-and-fire game inside the arc.

"The 6'10", 18-year-old is still at 42.3 percent on 5.1 attempts from behind the arc. They aren't all just simple catch-and-shoot shots. He's pulling up and using jab steps, getting himself enough space to elevate for jumpers that defenders can't effectively contest."

ESPN's Mike Schmitz also praised Smith and explained how he "has two foundational pillars that set him apart from the rest of the prospects in the top three: He's an elite shooter, and he has the footwork to be a multipositional one-on-one defender."

Mike Schmitz @Mike_Schmitz

Had a blast joining NBA Today this afternoon to talk rookies and the top of the 2022 draft class. Broke down NBA skills, areas for improvement, comps, best fits, and more for Auburn star Jabari Smith. <a href="https://t.co/PHINzIjOjH">pic.twitter.com/PHINzIjOjH</a>

In terms of his draft stock, Smith stood to gain little by spending another year at Auburn. Head coach Bruce Pearl probably assumed he'd be a one-and-done when he recruited him to the Tigers.

The predraft process can be difficult to read in terms of how a player might rise or fall. Barring a significant setback, Smith seems unlikely to slip much further than No. 3 on draft night.