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Did Rockets Have Jabari Smith No. 1 On Draft Board?

Was the selection of Jabari Smith Jr. during the 2022 NBA Draft a surprise to the Houston Rockets?

HOUSTON — Wearing a gray shirt in the comfort of his home, Jabari Smith jr. spoke to the media via Zoom ahead of the 2022 NBA Draft

Smith had a pre-draft workout with the Orlando Magic and Oklahoma City Thunder prior to his virtual press conference. Smith said he did not have additional workouts scheduled with other lottery teams because he did not see himself falling below the No. 2 pick.

The events inside the Barclays Center on June 23 came with a surprise. The Magic took Duke's Paolo Banchero with the first selection of the night, which resulted in Smith falling to pick No. 3 to the Houston Rockets.

Orlando's selection of Banchero left many stunned. The consensus belief had the Magic and Rockets reversing prospects. But according to The Athletic, the Rockets always had Smith atop its draft board.

"I had a lot of people tell me that they knew exactly what was going to happen," general manager Rafael Stone said when speaking to the media following the draft. "I always thought that was kind of funny, because I didn't. We were ready for anything. There were a couple of phone calls to make. We made them. 

“And we are really excited."

Per the report, the Rockets would have been pleased with whoever fell to them at No. 3 between Banchero, Smith and Chet Holmgren.  

Although the draft did not go as planned, Smith is ecstatic to be joining the Rockets. Smith is happy to be achieving his dreams of playing in the NBA but is irked by the idea that he fell outside the top-two selections. The results of the draft have motivated Smith ahead of his rookie season.

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The Rockets did not have a pre-draft workout nor a meeting with Smith but remain confident in their selection. Stone and his staff completed their pre-draft scouting on Smith by utilizing the near 200-game film the franchise had at their expense.

"I am excited to be a part of a new family and an organization that is on the come up," Smith said. "I am just happy to be here."

Smith is joining the Rockets after an impressive freshman campaign with the Auburn Tigers during the 2021-22 NCAA season. He averaged 16.9 points while shooting 43.0 percent from the field and 42.0 percent from behind the arc.

The Tigers went 28-6 (15-2 SEC) during the regular season and entered the tournament as the No. 2 seed in the Midwest bracket. Auburn's post-season run came to an end following a 79-61 defeat to the Miami Hurricanes in the second round.

Smith averaged 15.0 points and 14.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks during Auburn's March Madness appearance.

You can follow Coty Davis on Twitter @CotyDavis_24

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