In an offseason survey, ESPN’s panel of 15 NBA coaches, scouts, and executives doesn’t expect Houston Rockets forward Jabari Smith Jr. to become the NBA’s top rookie from this year’s class.
In response to a question of who will be the best rookie in five years from the 2022 draft class, Orlando’s Paolo Banchero and Oklahoma City’s Chet Holmgren got six votes apiece; Detroit’s Jaden Ivey received two; and Sacramento’s Keegan Murray had one.
Despite being projected at No. 1 overall for most of the pre-draft period, Smith did not receive a single vote from the panel. Smith, who unexpectedly slid to the Rockets at No. 3 on draft night, was the only member of this year’s top-five draft picks not to get a vote.
A little surprised Jabari Smith Jr. didn’t get a vote
— Offseason O (@omarisankofa) August 30, 2022
Some of it could simply come down to performances from a small sample at summer league. While Smith defended well, he didn’t shoot nearly as efficiently as most of his peers at the top of the draft. Though that should resolve itself as the sample size increases — after all, Smith was an elite long-range shooter at Auburn — his brief summer slump could be leaving a bad taste in some mouths.
Regardless, the apparent slight by ESPN’s panel could potentially be used by Smith as extra fuel and motivation as he gets ready for training camp in Houston, which opens in late September. The 2022-23 regular season will begin for the Rockets on Wednesday, Oct. 19.