It was a fairly productive 2022 summer league for prized rookie prospect Jabari Smith Jr., drafted at No. 3 overall in the first round by the Rockets. While he struggled at times with his jump shot — almost certainly an issue of sample size, given his elite history as a shooter in college — Smith showed enough on defense and in his contributions to team play to earn strong reviews for his performance.
Since then, however, Smith has diligently worked out for more than two months in Houston alongside his new teammates and coaches with the Rockets. Based on that progress, which includes a daily workout regimen to add strength, the 19-year-old forward expects to feel like a different player when he next takes the court in an organized NBA game for Houston’s Oct. 2 preseason opener.
In comments at Monday’s media day to launch the new season, Smith was asked by Ben DuBose of Rockets Wire whether any elements of his game had changed since summer league. Smith replied:
Oh, definitely. Just learning the offense, learning where to get my shots from, learning when to attack, and learning where to be on defense. Getting in the weight room and getting stronger. I feel like I’m a whole different player, honestly. I’m just working on the weaknesses of my game, and finding my strengths that will ultimately help this team.
Smith’s full interview can be watched below. As for his coaches and teammates, Stephen Silas sounded most impressed by his defense, while Kevin Porter Jr. was in awe of Smith’s shooting.
“He’s such a gifted defensive player — like, now,” Silas said of his now 6-foot-11 forward. “Him as a defender is what I’m so, so excited about. Our defense needs to be better, and he’s a big piece of that.”
“He can shoot the thang out the ball,” Porter surmised.
Smith and the Rockets will open training camp on Tuesday in Lake Charles, Louisiana, as they gear up for Sunday’s exhibition opener.