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Rockets draft Jabari Smith Jr. with third overall pick

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With the third pick in the 2022 NBA draft, the Houston Rockets selected Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. on Thursday in an unexpected turn of events.

Smith was widely expected to be the No. 1 pick of the Orlando Magic but the team ultimately chose Duke forward Paolo Banchero instead. Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren went to the Oklahoma City Thunder at No. 2, leaving Smith for the Rockets.

The change of events even surprised Smith himself.

He only worked out with the Magic and Thunder ahead of the draft. He felt as though he wouldn’t slip further than the Thunder, and prioritized meeting with the top two teams. Smith didn’t even meet with the Rockets at the draft combine last month.

Smith, who was voted a consensus All-American, averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, two assists, 1.1 steals and one blocked shot on 42% shooting from 3-point range last season. He set the Auburn single-season freshman record for points (576) and 3-pointers (79).

The 19-year-old figures to join the Rockets’ starting lineup next season. He projects to be a potential franchise cornerstone and should fit in well next to the likes of Jalen Green, Kevin Porter Jr. and Alperen Sengun among other players.

The Rockets, for the second year in a row, have multiple picks in the first round. They also have the 17th pick and last week acquired the 26th pick from the Dallas Mavericks in the trade involving Christian Wood.

This post originally appeared on Rookie Wire! Follow us on Facebook!

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