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#pounditSunday, June 16, 2024

Rising SEC star could become surprise No. 1 pick in NBA Draft?

Jabari Smith Jr in his Auburn uniform

The debate over who will go No. 1 overall in the 2022 NBA Draft has largely been focused on Duke’s Paolo Banchero and Gonzaga’s Chet Holmgren. One surprise freshman star could be crashing the party though.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported on Monday that Auburn forward Jabari Smith Jr. has entered the conversation to go No. 1 overall. O’Connor adds that Smith has even surpassed Banchero and Holmgren in the eyes of many scouts and executives around the NBA.

Smith, a 6-foot-10 forward, is the leading scorer for an 11-1 Auburn team, currently the No. 11 team in the country. He is averaging 16.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game. Smith is also hitting 45.2 percent on three-pointers this season.

O’Connor adds that Smith’s father, Jabari Smith Sr., also played in the NBA during the early 2000s. Smith Sr. played in 108 games over four seasons in the league, including stints with Sacramento, Philadelphia, and New Jersey.

Playing for two top programs, Banchero and Holmgren have gotten most of the marquee exposure this NCAA season. But do not be surprised if Smith manages to leapfrog both of them at the next level to go first overall in the NBA Draft.

Photo: Nov 25, 2021; Nassau, BHS; Auburn Tigers guard Wendell Green Jr. (1) and forward Jabari Smith (10) celebrate the win against the Loyola Ramblers in the 2021 Battle 4 Atlantis at Imperial Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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