Phát triển tốt nhất của Houston Rockets trong mùa hè: Jabari Smith Jr.

Jabari Smith Jr. of the Houston Rockets

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For the Houston Rockets, the most important thing that happened in the last three weeks was not the payroll-shattering signings of point guard Fred VanVleet and forward Dillon Brooks, two players who figure to appease the concerns of new coach Ime Udoka about the team’s frighteningly young roster. The hope is that VanVleet and Brooks (as well as veterans Jeff Green and Jock Landale) can bring enough toughness, veteran know-how and talent to thrust Houston back into the playoff mix sooner rather than later.

“For us a lot of it is just, we want to be better,” general manager Rafael Stone said during Summer League. “We needed some guys who knew how to play, who knew how to win today. Not just Fred but Dillon and Jeff, and Jock has not been in the NBA that long but he is an older guy. We wanted to really raise our floor without having to move off any of our young guys we’re super excited about.”

But even in the NBA, spending more than $250 million in a week on four players with one All-Star appearance among them is not all that difficult. Yes, the Rockets overspent on their free-agent haul—VanVleet is a Top 40-ish player and Brooks is fringe Top 100—but that is what teams coming off 22-60 seasons must do. It will take some time to judge the wisdom of the major contracts given to VanVleet and Brooks, but the Rockets have options on the deals for Green and Landale that will allow them to wriggle free after this season if either proves to be a disaster.

The most significant development for the Rockets this summer was not the money they spent, nor was it even the hiring of Udoka. It was the two-game showing of Jabari Smith Jr., the second-year forward and 2022 No. 2 pick who offered a head-scratchingly disappointing showing in for most of rookie season. In fact, as Magic MAGIC big man Paolo Banchero flashed immense talent and versatility, it was difficult to remember that it was supposed to be Smith who went No. 1 in last year’s draft, before Orlando threw a curveball and took Banchero.

Smith’s numbers last year—12.8 points, 7.2 rebounds in 31.0 minutes—were not terrible, but he was brutally inefficient, making 40.8% of his shots and 30.7% of his 3-pointers. He was not much of an attacker of the basket, either, attempting only 2.6 free-throws per game, eighth-fewest in the league among forwards who attempted at least 10 shots per game. Make no mistake, this organization will go nowhere if Smith reverts to that form next season.

Jabari Smith ‘Was The Best Player At Summer League’

In two games in Las Vegas, though, Smith looked much, much different. He averaged 35.5 points in his two games, driving past opponents with confidence and averaging a whopping 13.5 free-throw attempts. He still needs to make his money as a stretch-4, especially with the additions that the Rockets have coming in, but Smith showed he can be a 20-point scorer—even next season, even with VanVleet and Brooks launching 30-35 shots per night.

“Other than (No. 1 pick Victor Wembanyama), he was the best player this summer, even if he only played twice,” one Western Conference coach said. “You saw some hints of that from him down the stretch last year but it was hard to tell whether that was just them playing heck-with-it kind of basketball or if that was him really showing he had gotten better. You know, you take what happens here (in summer league) and keep it in perspective but sometimes you can just see when something has clicked in a guy, and he has that look.”

That’s the thing about this Rockets summer. They came away with the free-agent prizes they had been focused on, but they’re under no illusions that VanVleet and Brooks are going to turn these guys into immediate Western Conference contenders. The only way this team can elevate quickly is by getting their young guys—2021 No. 2 pick Jalen Green, 21-year-old center Alperen Sengun, 22-year-old forward Tari Eason, rookies Amen Thompson and Cam Whitmore—to fast-track their development.

Smith is tops on that list. His game fits the most naturally with the skillsets of Brooks and VanVleet and though he has not shown much in his one NBA season, if all goes well in Houston, he will blow by those two and be the team’s best player within two seasons.

Kể từ khi cung cấp cho Houston Rockets, Jabari Smith Jr đã cho thấy rằng anh là nhân vật cực kỳ quan trọng trong sự phát triển tốt nhất của Houston Rockets trong mùa hè này.

Hồi tháng 8 năm ngoái, anh đã chia tay đội bóng của mình trong khu vực Houston. Người hâm mộ xem Houston Rockets có cơ hội thu được Jabari Smith Jr mà họ đã để ý đến những gì anh đang làm.

Ngay từ lúc đầu Jabari Smith Jr đã thể hiện sự quen thuộc và độ tin cậy cao với đội bóng của họ, tuy nhiên anh vẫn tiếp tục giữ bức ảnh hài hước của mình, anh vẫn bên cạnh anh đao xào và cười vui trong bất cứ thời gian nào.

Trong các trận giao hữu, Jabari Smith Jr đã làm cho mọi người bất ngờ khi anh không ngừng bùng nổ trong các trận đấu, trở thành mỹ nam hàng đầu và trở thành một trong những vận động viên được lùi giữ Starbucks thân hàng nhất trong lịch sử.

Trong khi dự báo hàng loạt tốt cho phiên bản free agency của nó, Jabari Smith Jr đã bàn luận về việc được đảm trách cả đội bóng và anh nghĩ rằng có thể anh sẽ trở thành nhân vật quan trọng trong sự phát triển tốt nhất của đội bóng.

Và ông đã không làm phiền họ. Trong những tuần đầu tiên của mùa hè, Jabari Smith Jr đã đạt được những điểm số, giữ và hoà của mình ở mức cao hơn rất nhiều so với phiên bản free agency mà ông đã giao lưu trước đó.

Anh đã càng trở nên độc lập ngay cả trong một số lúc hơn những lần cưới giải tỏa với cầu thủ khác, Jabari Smith Jr đã làm cho Houston Rockets trở nên đa dạng hơn trong thời gian đó.

Jabari Smith Jr đã đạt được những thành tựu lớn và anh cũng nhận được rất nhiều tôn trọng vì những thành tựu đó. Những gì ông ấy đã làm tạo nên hướng trong phát triển tốt nhất của Houston Rockets trong mùa hè này.

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