Upside is a crazy word that is thrown around way too much in sports, especially in basketball. We fantasize over how good a player could potentially be rather than what a player realistically will be.
Because in sports not everything works out.
And that holds true for Thunder forward Perry Jones III, so far.
After his freshman year at Baylor, Jones was pegged as a top-five pick in the 2011 draft.
Standing 6-11, with long arms, an excellent frame and incredible fluidity for a player his size, Jones is a rare physical specimen by any standard. When motivated, he runs the floor about as well as any big man in this draft and is capable of beating his man off the dribble with a terrific first step. He has great hands and an exceptionally soft touch, which makes him an incredible finisher around the basket. (His length and highlight reel-caliber explosiveness help in this regard as well.
That’s a scouting report on Jones during that 2011 season. Reread that again. People were drooling over what Jones brought to the table.Unfortunately, for Jones at least, he stayed at Baylor one more year and people picked apart his game and discovered he may not be the next “can’t miss” prospect.
The Thunder thought Jones was worthy of the No. 24 pick in the 2012 draft and took a chance on the once projected lottery forward. Since then Jones has flown relatively under the radar.
In his first two years, Jones averaged 3.0 points per game on 34.9 percent from 3 in 10.4 minutes per game. He has not played a huge role in the Thunder’s recent success.
Gooing from a potential top-five pick to an end of the bench reserve can make people give up on a player.
But I haven’t. I think Jones can be a key contributor for the Thunder this year and on.
You know why? Because Jones is a 6-foot-11 forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan who can shoot the ball from 3 and is a competent defender.
There are very few guys in the league who possess those tools. Jones is one of them and coach Scott Brooks and the Thunder need to find ways to incorporate Jones more.
“Three and D” guys are some of my favorite players in the league. Guys who are good defenders and can knock down the 3-point shot at a decent rate are great assets to have.
Jones can be that guy. We have seen him do it.
Jan. 30 against LeBron James in the Heat, Brooks went away from his usual lineup and inserted Jones over Kendrick Perkins. Jones guarded James, and did a fine job, while Durant took a breather from defending the best player in the league.
The Thunder erased a 18-point deficit to win by 17 and Jones’ 30 minutes of action played a big role in a huge road victory.
However, we never saw the Thunder really go back to Jones in that kind of way. He never played more than 30 minutes again last year.
The Heat game was one of the only games all year we got to see him get extended run with regular starters so it was hard to gauge his play the rest of the year when he was playing most of his minutes in garbage time.
He has become a decent 3-point shooter as well. Last season he shot 42 percent on 38 corner 3s. It was a vast improvement to his rookie season when he shot zero corner 3s all year.
He is obviously growing as player and I think Brooks should use him in more lineups next year. A lineup of Jones-Kevin Durant-Russell Westbrook-Reggie Jackson-Serge Ibaka could be good defensively and you could spread the ball offensively and get a lot of good looks.
Jones gives the Thunder a lot of options, they just have to be willing to test them out.
He can also really get out and run the floor. A fast break of Westbrook with the ball and Durant and Jones on the wings would be breathtaking. I mean Durant did say this about Jones.
Kevin Durant just said he thinks Perry Jones III is the best athlete in the league.
— Darnell Mayberry (@DarnellMayberry) May 29, 2014
Of course Jones has things to work on. He needs to continue to get stronger in order to defend in the post.
A big knock on him coming out of college was his motivation and that could be something that is holding back his minutes. Being ready and playing hard when his number is called is certainly something Jones must do if he wants to have an impact next year.
I really do think Jones can be an impact player next year. It would be silly for the Thunder, or anyone else, to give up on Jones this early in his career.
Finding new wrinkles to make your team better is not a bad thing (cc: Scott Brooks) and Jones can potentially provide that.