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Rockets shooting and defense just improved dramatically with Jabari Smith and Tari Eason

Rafael Stone firmed up two former areas of weakness.

2022 NBA Draft Photo by Michael J. LeBrecht II/NBAE via Getty Images

That gasp you heard was the collective shock of many Houston Rockets fans when Paolo Banchero was drafted number one overall by the Orlando Magic. It had been reported for several weeks from many respectable sources that Banchero would be the Rockets’ pick. However, once Orlando made Banchero their choice, the focus immediately moved to Jabari Smith Jr., as Chet Holmgren was a lock to the Thunder.

Even though there may be some Rockets fans who are disappointed, that shouldn't last long. In drafting Jabari Smith and later Tari Eason with the 17 pick, Houston’s shooting and defense improved dramatically. Both Smith and Eason are known for playing tough defense and bring something the Rockets were severely lacking the last two years: Strong, defensive-minded wings who have the size and speed to guard multiple positions

Smith and Eason improve two areas the Rockets were lacking in: Shooting and defense

The Rockets ranked 20th in three-point shooting last year and dead last in allowed points per game (by a wide margin). The defense for the previous two years has gotten worse each year, and even though the Rockets are rebuilding, defense is an area the Rockets have to start improving. They took two steps in the right direction with their first two draft picks.

Jabari Smith is one of the best shooters in the draft. Last year at Auburn, Smith shot 42 percent from beyond the line and showed the ability to score against all types of defense. Smith shot a remarkable 41 percent from 24 ft and beyond which is further than the NBA 3-point line. His 79 made shots from beyond the arc are the most by a player 6 ft 10 or taller in the last 25 years.

A big concern from some people was Smith's inability to create separation on some of his shots. I don't see that as big of an issue considering that in the NBA, you are not going to get much separation against NBA defenses.

Smith gives the Rockets a power forward that can help spread the floor, something they didn't have with Jae'Sean Tate playing the four since Christian Wood was mainly playing center. Teams made it a point to back off Tate, regularly putting their center on him and having him camp out in the lane. Teams will pay if they try that strategy against Smith.

Eason may not have the same shooting pedigree, but he did improve his shooting from his freshman year. Eason shot 24.1 percent his first year and improved to 35.9 percent his second year. Even with the concerns about his shooting form, Eason has shown that he can improve his shot.

The other area that will improve is defense. As mentioned earlier, the Rockets were the worst defense in the league. Smith is a 6'10” power forward who can switch onto any player one through four.

As you see in this video, Smith has excellent instincts. He averaged over 1 block per game along with 1.5 steals. Smith will give the Rockets more defensive options. They won't have to worry about teams seeking out Smith on switches because of his great defensive instincts.

Eason's instincts are even better, as he averaged almost 2 steals per game and over 1 block per game. Eason can play either forward spot, and at 6’8”, 215 pounds, Eason has the size to compete defensively on any switch.

As you see in the above defensive clip, Eason’s ability to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time is already elite. To be able to leave his man and run out to the three-point line for the game-saving block is impressive. That is something the Rockets need; a big, long, rangy defender that wants to play defense.

With Eason and Smith on the court, the Rockets’ last-place defense should be a thing of the past. If they get the expected defensive improvement from their backcourt, the Rockets will be on their way to improving the worst area of their team.

Some Rockets fans may have been shocked by the announcement of Smith to Houston, but with the selections of Smith and Eason, the shooting and defense will improve the day both stepped foot on the court. With the addition of TyTy Washington as well, your team just got a lot better, Rockets fans.