By Houston Rockets, Houston Forward Times
During the 2022 NBA Draft, the Houston Rockets selected forward Jabari Smith Jr. with the third overall pick and forward Tari Eason (TAR-ee) with the 17th overall pick.
Smith (6-10, 220) was an early entry candidate following his freshman season at Auburn. He averaged 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 steals and 1.0 blocks along with 2.3 3-pointers made on 42.9% shooting. Smith earned consensus second-team All-American honors and was named National Freshman of the Year by the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA).
Dating back to 1992-93, the 19-year-old joined Kevin Durant as the only freshmen to have averaged at least 16.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg and 2.0 3FGM while shooting 40.0% or better from behind-the-arc. Over that same span, Smith was one of four freshmen to have averaged at least 16.0 ppg, 7.0 ppg, 2.0 3FGM and 1.00 bpg. He hit at least one 3-pointer in each of the final 29 games of the season.
Last year, the Rockets selected NBA All-Rookie First Team member Jalen Green with the second overall pick. The last time Houston selected players in the top-three in consecutive drafts was in 1983 with Hakeem Olajuwon (No. 1) and in 1984 with Ralph Sampson (No. 1) and Rodney McCray (No. 3). Prior to tonight, the last time any team selected players in the top-three in consecutive drafts was when Boston, Philadelphia, and the Los Angeles Lakers all did so in 2016 and 2017.
Eason (6-8, 216) was an early entry candidate following his sophomore season with Louisiana State after beginning his collegiate career at Cincinnati. He averaged 16.9 points on 52.1% shooting for the Tigers, up from 7.3 ppg on 46.2% shooting as a freshman and became the first player in SEC history to be named Sixth Man of the Year while also earning All-SEC First Team honors. Over the final 17 games last season, Eason averaged 18.4 ppg while shooting 42.9% from 3-point range.
In 2021-22, Eason was one of four players to have averaged at least 16.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 1.50 spg and 1.00 bpg. He recorded multiple steals in 20 of his 33 games played and was one of 10 semifinalists for the Naismith Defensive Player of the Year Award.
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