Sunday, July 3, 2022

2022 NBA Mock Draft: Auburn’s Jabari Smith fits Magic’s needs, projects as top pick ahead of Chet Holmgren

2022 NBA Mock Draft: Auburn's Jabari Smith fits Magic's needs, projects as top pick ahead of Chet Holmgren

Smith’s outside shooting touch makes him the right choice for Orlando after it won the NBA Draft Lottery


Now that the NBA Draft order is settled and the Orlando Magic have landed the No. 1 overall pick, the conversation around who should be the top selection can get a bit more nuanced. Jabari Smith, Paolo Banchero and Chet Holmgren are regarded as the frontrunners, and any of the three could have gone first overall depending on who ended up with the first pick.

But with Orlando in particular, Smith makes the most sense. The Magic ranked 28th in 3-point shooting percentage at 33.1% in the regular season and could lose their top two outside threats in Gary Harris and Mo Bamba during free agency. With 23-year-old center Wendell Carter Jr. coming off his best season yet and under contract for four more seasons, it appears Smith would be a logical partner in the frontcourt.

A case can be made for Holmgren, since he’s a better rim protector than Smith and shot-blocking isn’t a particular strength for Carter. But in today’s NBA, offense must be the priority, and Smith’s outside shooting touch helps him stand out in that regard.

The 6-foot-10 forward hit 42% of his 3-point attempts while taking 5.5 per game as a freshman at Auburn and averaging 16.9 points per game. He’s also got plenty of defensive upside as a rangy and athletic player who should be able to hold his own against a diverse array of opponents as his frame fills out and he adjusts to the speed and physicality of the pro game.

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