Former Sandy Creek star Jabari Smith picked third in NBA draft

Auburn's Jabari Smith (10) speaks during a news conference on Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: AP

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Auburn's Jabari Smith (10) speaks during a news conference on Saturday, March 19, 2022, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: AP

Former Sandy Creek High School star Jabari Smith was picked third in the NBA draft by the Houston Rockets Thursday night.

As a high school senior, Smith averaged 24 points and 10 rebounds per game and was named the Atlanta Journal-Constitution all-classification player of the year. He led Sandy Creek to its first state final.

Smith is the son of Jabari Smith Sr., a former four-year NBA player from Washington High School who starred at LSU.

The younger Smith played one season at Auburn, averaging 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and two assists per game. The power forward was SEC freshman of the year, All-SEC first-team and second-team All-American.

The Rockets were happy to end up with a player who many thought would end up going first in the draft. The 6-foot-10 Smith is a natural fit in the current NBA game, able to defend all three frontcourt positions and with a shooting stroke that allowed him to hit 42% behind the arc.

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Sandy Creek's Jabari Smith (10) dribbles against Cross Creek's Antoine Lorick (23) during the Class 3A boys championship game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Macon. Cross Creek won 57-49. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Sandy Creek's Jabari Smith (10) dribbles against Cross Creek's Antoine Lorick (23) during the Class 3A boys championship game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Macon. Cross Creek won 57-49. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Combined ShapeCaption
Sandy Creek's Jabari Smith (10) dribbles against Cross Creek's Antoine Lorick (23) during the Class 3A boys championship game Friday, March 12, 2021, in Macon. Cross Creek won 57-49. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

Houston added a skilled player to join last year’s second pick Jalen Green as the team continues its rebuild.

Smith was one of three first-round picks the Rockets had in this year’s draft. Houston also had the 17th pick, which the team received as part of the trade for James Harden, and the 26th pick but whoever is drafted in that slot will go to the Dallas Mavericks once the trade for center Christian Wood is official.

The Rockets have finished with the NBA's worst record the last two seasons after reaching the playoffs in each of the previous eight seasons.

After trading Harden and the rest of their established stars, Houston went all in on the rebuild, looking to develop young draft picks to bring the team back into contention.

Green had a solid rookie year, starting 67 games and averaging 17.3 points. He was one of four first-round picks the Rockets had last season, as they also added Alperen Sengun at 16, Usman Garuba with the 23rd pick and Josh Christopher at 24.

The Rockets will expect Smith to play immediately as they move on from Wood, who led the team in scoring in each of the last two seasons. If the 19-year-old starts as expected, the team will field an extraordinarily young starting lineup with four players under 22.

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Auburn's Jabari Smith, right, dunks over Jacksonville State's Brandon Huffman during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday, March 18, 2022, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: AP

Auburn's Jabari Smith, right, dunks over Jacksonville State's Brandon Huffman during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday, March 18, 2022, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: AP

Combined ShapeCaption
Auburn's Jabari Smith, right, dunks over Jacksonville State's Brandon Huffman during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the NCAA tournament Friday, March 18, 2022, in Greenville, S.C. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Credit: AP

Credit: AP

The Orlando Magic selected Duke freshman Paolo Banchero with the No. 1 pick.

Banchero averaged 17.2 points in his lone college season, along with 7.8 rebounds and was a third-team Associated Press All-American. There were roars from the crowd at Amway Center — Banchero’s new home court — when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced just past 8 p.m. that the Magic were on the clock.

“I can’t believe what just happened, honestly,” Banchero said, after embracing his mother — Rhonda Smith-Banchero, a former WNBA player.

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The Magic were picking first for the fourth time and they’ve done well with their previous choices. They took Shaquille O’Neal in 1992, traded the rights to Chris Webber for Penny Hardaway the next year, and went with Dwight Howard in 2004. All eventually reached the NBA Finals with the Magic.

Chet Holmgren went second to the Oklahoma City Thunder after the 7-footer led the West Coast Conference in blocked shots, rebounding and shooting percentage at Gonzaga. He looked sharp in his black suit at the draft but may need it to eventually be a bigger size for success in the NBA, as he’s listed at just 195 pounds.

Forward Keegan Murray, after a huge leap in his second season in Iowa, jumped all the way to the No. 4 pick by the Sacramento Kings. The Detroit Pistons, a year after taking Cade Cunningham with the No. 1 pick, took athletic Purdue guard Jaden Ivey fifth.