clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Jabari Smith Jr. is locked in during NBA Summer League

Jabari Smith is having his way in Las Vegas.

NBA: Summer League-Portland Trail Blazers at Houston Rockets Lucas Peltier-USA TODAY Sports

Las Vegas, Nevada has been eventful for the Houston Rockets’ Summer League team. Although viewers saw a small sample size of Amen Thompson, he still dazzled with his insane passing and finishing around the rim. Unfortunately, Thompson is out with an ankle injury. But Jabari Smith Jr. is impressing the spectrum of Las Vegas with back-to-back 30-plus point games.

As seen, Smith looks much more polished inside his skill set. He’s been in the gym with Tari Eason day in-and-day out throughout the offseason. Smith’s main objective from last year was to improve his handle so he can become more versatile within the Rockets’ offensive system. He doesn’t want to be intimidated by smaller guards stealing the ball from him. While playing in the Summer League, Smith wants to become a better player from last season.

Throughout the Summer League, Smith creates his offensive from the perimeter and seeks out opportunities inside the post off the dribble. He’s had slight crossovers which allow him to blow by certain defenders. Usually, Smith must find himself within position or pick his dribble up to shoot the basketball. But Smith no longer wants to be a prototype catch-and-shoot player. That allowed Carmelo Anthony, Tracy McGrady and Kevin Durant to become All-Stars within the NBA. Smith wants to be more creative with his skill set, as that can cause confusion on the opposite side of him.

Within Smith’s first game versus the Portland Trail Blazers, Smith did struggle in first half. After halftime, Smith collected himself and became aggressive inside the second half. He was seen calling for the ball and creating his own offense. Smith erupted for 29 points in the second half and finished with 33 points, which includes a game winner. He looked poised and determined to have a better half of basketball. Smith looked much better at shooting off the dribble versus the Blazers.

While playing the Detroit Pistons, Smith looked more confident with his skill set. He attacked the Pistons in every aspect by being aggressive throughout the game. Smith even showed shot creativity with his back towards the basketball. His ball handling looked secured and confident while creating moves to blow by his defender. Smith did look successful on his pull-up threes versus the Pistons. Hopefully, he takes more attempts this season as he only took 0.8 attempts per game last season.

Another thing noted is he’s becoming comfortable at attacking downhill on offense. Smith wants the ability to score at all three levels.

Smith wants to solidify his starting position with the Rockets and prove he’s all about winning this upcoming season. “We’re ready to win. We’re tired of losing,” Smith said after the game to ESPN. Inside the Summer League, Smith is shooting splits are 46.5/35.2/80.2 from the field. Ben Sullivan is excited about Smith’s growth during the Summer League and told reporter Jackson Gatlin of Locked in Rockets this:

“There’s such tremendous value. How many opportunities do you get with five-on-five, the refs, executing concepts. It really helps you develop, mature, and grow.”

Minor Notes

· Tari Eason is a better Tari Eason than last season because of his confidence and energy throughout the game. His defensive intensity is there, which includes a better basketball IQ. Eason knows how to operate the pick-and-roll better and find the cutter towards the rim. He’s trying to become a better playmaker for his teammates around him. Eason’s energy is what the Rockets’ culture wants to continue to build upon.

· Cam Whitmore looked confident and offensively better. His shot section became wiser as the game to continued to come to him. He passed the ball willingly throughout the entire game. Whitmore didn’t take forced shots, as he could get his rhythm within the Rockets’ offensive system. Although Whitmore struggled versus the Blazers, he showcased his energy and athleticism during the game. He does a tremendous job of jumping the passing lanes defensively and being effective in transition. Whitmore had a whopping 21 points and shot 56 percent from the field, which included a few threes at the perimeter versus the Blazers.