Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason reflect on NBA All-Rookie seasons in Houston

Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason reflect on NBA All-Rookie seasons in Houston

When the visiting locker room opened at Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., the mood inside was somber with a joyous feel. The dark cloud figuratively hovering involved unconfirmed reports that head coach Stephen Silas would not return to the Rockets next season, as the organization had decided not to extend his contract. Silas addressed the players after that game, which was Houston’s finale of the 2022-23 season, to discuss his future.

Even though the group of young men had emotions all over the place, they took solace in knowing they had played very well down the stretch for Silas. Houston won three straight games and four of its last five, including a win over the Wizards in that April 9 game. Two key leaders for the Rockets in that victory were a pair of rookies who had listened intently to Silas’ guidance throughout the season.

Rookie forwards Jabari Smith Jr. and Tari Eason played with tremendous intent every time they stepped onto the hardwood. On Monday, they were rewarded for their hard work and dedication, as they were each named to the NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team.

Scroll to continue with content

In doing so, Smith and Eason joined teammates Jalen Green (2021-22 first team) and Jae’Sean Tate (2020-21 first team) in being named to All-Rookie teams over the last three seasons. As with Tate, Smith and Eason are both prospects who are primarily known for defense.

After spending one season in college at Auburn, Smith came into his rookie season with high expectations as the No. 3 overall pick in the first round of the 2022 NBA draft. He started 79 out of 82 games this season, averaging 12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 1.3 assists.

“Just looking back at the ups and downs and looking at where I am now, I just feel like I am a totally different player than I was back in October playing in Atlanta for the first game,” Smith said after a home win over Denver on April 4. “The game is so much slower for me, and I feel like the improvement has been noticeable.”

Smith took his game to another level over the final 18 games, averaging 16.3 points and 8.2 rebounds. During that span, he also recorded eight of his season-high 16 double-doubles. In doing so, he joined Mavericks superstar Luka Dončić as the only rookies to ever record at least 550 rebounds and 100 made 3-pointers in a season.

As for Eason, he knew entering the NBA that he was embarking upon on a familiar path of proving himself. It’s what he did going from high school in Seattle, Washington, to the University of Cincinnati for one season, and then to his final college destination of LSU.


Eason was selected by the Rockets with the No. 17 overall pick in the 2022 draft. With no defined role, Eason used his ability to make the right plays at the right time to garner more playing time throughout the season. He appeared in all 82 games, averaging 9.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.1 assists, and 1.17 steals in 21.5 minutes.

The former All-SEC First Team member and Sixth Man of the Year became the fifth NBA rookie to have recorded at least 450 rebounds, 90 steals, 40 blocks, and 50 3-pointers, joining Carmelo Anthony, Larry Bird, Lamar Odom, and Antoine Walker. Eason was also the third player in league history with at least 190 offensive rebounds and 90 steals while playing fewer than 1,800 minutes.

“I learned a lot,” Eason said after the victory over Denver in Houston’s home finale. “It is hard to say everything because I learned so much on a day-to-day basis. I learned how to control my mentality. Knowing when to go and pick my spots. This is my first season in the NBA, and I learned the precedent of what was to come and what I should expect and the standards that should be met.”


Jabari Smith Jr., Tari Eason named to NBA’s All-Rookie Second Team

Report: Jabari Smith Jr. changing to No. 10 jersey for Rockets

Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire