In his latest 2022 NBA mock draft, The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor has the Oklahoma City Thunder selecting Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. second overall. The video version of his mock draft explains in further detail as to why he thinks the Smith Jr. to Thunder scenario is a dream matchup for both parties:
“I got Jabari Smith Jr. going number two right now. This fit here for Oklahoma City. It’s – again – sensational for Sam Presti and the Thunder that they land number two. They have the ammo to trade up to number one if they really need to get their guy for sure. But Jabari Smith and number two makes a hell of a lot of sense because you get a guy who’s 6’10, who shot 43.6% from three as a freshman at Auburn, and he’s not just some spot up shooter, some guy who’s taken standstill threes. He’s somebody who can come off of screens and hand off and movement. Auburn did not do that during his freshman year, but you can see the way he takes pull up jumpers, the way he relocates off ball, how those skills are going to apply to more organized sets that you see in the NBA. So for Oklahoma City here, think about what they have. Their best young guys – Josh Giddey, who they drafted last year, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who they of course got in the Paul George trade. Those guys are your primary ball handlers. And I think it’s worth noting as a quick aside here, Giddey’s likely there for the long term, that Gilgeous-Alexander stuff – he’s already into his second contract. They already had trade talks potentially trying to go for Cade Cunningham last year according to multiple reports. He’s not necessarily a part of the long-term future. Maybe he’s a guy they flip again, but why would not you want to keep Gilgeous-Alexander? He’s just the guy that you’d be open to moving if the deal’s right. If they’re keeping SGA and Giddey, Jabari Smith Jr. makes all the sense in the world considering the fact he brings that shotmaking that complements those guys. One of his weaknesses: getting very little of the ball, does not have the tightest handle. This is where the (Michael Porter Jr.) comparison comes from. That’s something to keep in mind here. Think about what makes the best version of Michael Porter Jr. work in Denver. Well, he’s playing off of Jokic, he’s playing off of Murray and he’s feasting against some of the weaker matchups. He’s getting spot up threes, he’s attacking close outs. Jabari Smith Jr. will be in a similar environment next to SGA and Giddey and some of the other handlers for the Thunder. But the reason why this works is because Smith can develop that over the course of time. The level that he needs to reach as a ball handler – and he does not need to be the 6’10 Kyrie Irving. He just needs to reach a passable level so he can be creating offense for your team. And even though he does not, whatever man, because you’re getting somebody who sets the tone on defense, who’s 6’10, who’s long, who’s tough, who hustles, who brings it every single possession on the floor. So at a minimum, you get a guy with size, a shooting stroke, who’s smart, who can defend multiple positions. This is why this guy is a top pick and why he rose up the rankings during his freshman year at Auburn. For OKC here, this pick is one of my favorite matches from team to prospect in the entire draft. But with that said, Oklahoma City, you could say a lot of the same things about what Chet (Holmgren) could be with that team as a complementary piece and what (Paolo) Banchero could be as a primary guy, alongside them as a creator . ”
It seems like Smith Jr. fits all the needs that the Thunder need in terms of building with Gilgeous-Alexander and Giddey as he provides excellent outside shooting, an ability to move off the ball and a defensive pedigree that can raise the team’s floor on that side of the court. Considering that is in increasingly becoming more of a two-man draft between Smith Jr. and Holmgren, it’s hard to see the Thunder not be extremely happy and excited with whichever of the two they select.