Jabari Smith Jr. may be a 19-year-old NBA rookie, but the 6-foot-11 forward is already making a big impression in training camp for the Houston Rockets with his defensive tenacity and versatility.
"His switchability is really good," Silas told Jackson Gatlin of Locked on Rockets. "His basketball instincts on the defensive end, he's in the gaps. There were some penetration plays where he was just standing there, and he's so long that the gaps are not available."
"The effort that he gives defensively is something that carries over to his teammates," Silas concluded. "We're playing a little harder defensively because he's on the floor. … Having someone out there that really loves to play defense is a big thing for us."
Smith was drafted at No. 3 overall in the 2022 first round by the Rockets, and the combination of his length, athleticism, 3-point shooting, and defense have many around the league expecting an immediate impact as a frontcourt starter next to Alperen Sengun.
Jae'Sean Tate, arguably Houston's best defensive player of the last two seasons, echoed Silas' assessment in post-practice comments.
"He's a guy who actually wants to play defense," Tate said of Smith. "It's hard to find guys, nowadays, that love the defensive end. Me and him have conversations all the time. He's asking questions, how to learn, where the spots are. He's a very fast learner."
Smith and the Rockets will practice in Houston on Saturday before the team's home preseason opener on Sunday versus San Antonio. Tipoff from Toyota Center is scheduled for 6 p.m. Central.
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Story originally appeared on Rockets Wire