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Puzzle Pieces: Jabari Smith Adds Unprecedented Sharpshooting the OKC Thunder Need

Jabari Smith fills in perfectly with the Thunder as a sharpshooting forward.

269 out of 270. That’s how the 2021-22 Oklahoma City Thunder ranked in catch-and-shoot threes since tracking began nine seasons ago. The lone team worse was the Josh Smith-led Detroit Pistons in 2013-14. The Pistons shot 32.5% on 14.0 attempts in that season. Oklahoma City shot 32.6% on 27.2 tries. Needless to say they could use some help from deep.

With the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft, the Oklahoma City Thunder may look to a different Smith to address this hole in the offense. Auburn's Jabari Smith is the name to keep an eye on.

Smith, age 19, has been deemed the top shooter coming out of this year’s draft class. In his lone season with the Tigers, Smith shot 42.0% from deep en route to averaging 16.9 points, 6.5 rebounds, and 2.0 assists across 34 games. To tag with this stat line, his 6-foot-10, 200-pound build makes him the lengthy shooter teams have desparately wanted.

Offensively, Smith is going to impress with his jumper. With a quick, fluid release, he’s able to get his shot off nearly anywhere – and he’s found success with limitless range. Under his elite knack from distance, he surfaced as one of the most lethal catch-and-shoot forwards in college. In addition, he generated success with a two-dribble pull-up at both deep and mid ranges.

Smith’s ability to generate points without needing to start the offense is huge for a team such as Oklahoma City. With Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey lacking an elite off-ball game, relief is needed. Smith slides into that role perfectly. Additionally, his stroke could make him a great partner for high-ball screen set-ups.

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There are some kinks in his game offensively. In terms of shot-making, he’s mastered the jumper. But, He doesn’t have a go-to dribble move to gain separation or attack the basket – resulting in some contested shots. But, if he develops this aspect of his game, his offensive limitations are slim. For Oklahoma City, who’s lacked an elite-scoring forward during the rebuild, Smith, at worst, fills one of your major needs. But, if he fills out as a handler, he adds a serious 1-on-1 matchup.

Defensively, Smith is the ideal forward for Oklahoma City. At 6-foot-10, Smith has great lateral quickness, making him the perfect cog in Mark Daigneault's roster. There have been rotational crunches in the Thunder’s years of rebuilding. However, with Smith being a sturdy defender against forwards and, in spurts, shooting guards, he’s able to play 2-4. That’s huge for a group like the Thunder, who’ve consistently experimented with players’ positions.

His on-ball creation could use some touch-ups. But, in Bricktown – Jabari Smith fits like a glove. If available at Pick No. 2, Sam Presti may go the Auburn alum’s way. 

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