Terrence Jones was one of the biggest stars in the D-League last season, averaging 19.0 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks per game. Despite taking the NBA's minor league by storm, more playing time with the Rockets shortly after never came. However, this season should be different story, as Houston's starting power forward position up for grabs and Jones' skill-set seems like a perfect fit.
However, there are still many unknowns Terrence Jones and it's unclear whether or not his game will translate to the next level. As a big fan of both the D-League and Houston Rockets, Jones' case fascinates me. Using game tape from last season, I've chosen to dabble deeper into his strengths and weaknesses in an attempt to gauge what kind of impact he could have with the Rockets this season.
Most of Terrence Jones' shooting woes from the perimeter lie in his unorthodox form. Unlike what you see from sharp shooters like Ray Allen, Mike Miller or Kyle Korver, Jones brings his forearm further back than 90 degrees, turning his jumper into more of a slingshot. While he's capable of knocking down open shots, he's extremely inconsistent - as the numbers indicate below - because his form changes a fraction every time he launches one from deep. It also makes his release slower, allowing longer, more athletic defenders to play deep enough off of him to prevent him from driving by them, while also remaining close enough to contest his shot. Finally, Jones rarely squares his feet to the basket, which is a problem all in its own.
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Through 24 D-League contests last season, Jones shot 29.7 percent from three, which is well below the NBA average. For that reason, it's comes as a concern that he attempted 4.2 threes per game - far too many for what the numbers warrant. We could blame that on him just being the number one option on the Vipers. That said, it's still somewhat concerning anyway, given the Rockets' style of play, as Jones will find himself on the perimeter quite often. That could make him a liability on half-court sets if he can't consistently knock down shots.
If Jones does settle for jumpers instead of mixing it up and looking for other ways to score, he could end up seeing his minutes dwindle down and go to someone like Donatas Motiejunas - a more consistent shooter from range. The good news is, however, that Jones has plenty more to bring to the table, so there's no need to fret too much about this just yet.
Attacking The Basket
Jones is an intriguing talent, thanks in large part to his versatility. While his jump-shot needs some work, the forward does have the range necessary to help stretch the floor and is capable of weaving his way to the basket. However, given his inconsistency from the perimeter, you'd expect defenders to lay off of Jones, encouraging him to shoot rather than attack the basket. For some reason, many D-League teams didn't do that and as you'd expect, Jones took advantage.
What you'll see in the video below is that Jones' go-to move from the perimeter is a pump-fake, followed by a couple of hard dribbles with his strong hand. I'm not a believer that this move will be half as effective in the NBA, but when defenders do bite on his shot-fake, it's hard to stop him because he's strong, fast, athletic, and is capable of finishing around the basket with his left hand. On top of that, he has a soft touch, allowing him to shoot floaters over taller defenders.
In saying that, Jones clearly favors going to his left. Given his slow shooting form, athletic defenders such as Christian Eyenga were able to stick with him and force him into taking tough shots.
But the main issue here is that Jones is much worse when going to his right. Most of the time, it looks as though he has to think about what he's doing, which means it's not second nature. He also looks uncomfortable finishing with his right hand, resulting in him messing up his footwork or trying to compensate by shooting shots with his left.
Jones had the same problem in college and it's a short-coming in his game that will only be magnified the more he plays in the NBA. Working on his right hand would do wonders for Jones' offensive game, since his it's now predicated on his ability to lure defenders into thinking he'll shoot, which won't be nearly as effective in the NBA.
Jones weighs in at a lean 252 pounds. He's also 6-foot-9 with a standing reach of 8-foot-11, and boasts a max vertical of 34.5-inches, so keeping him off of the boards is a tough ordeal.
In 30.9 minutes per game with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Jones averaged 9.0 rebounds, which was good enough for 16th best in the D-League. He also recorded nine double-doubles and grabbed 16 or more rebounds in three contests. And if that isn't enough food for thought, Jones was a tremendous rebounder during his two years at Kentucky, so there's absolutely no need to have concerns in this department.
Coming into the NBA, scouts questioned Jones' ability to guard smaller, athletic wings, as well as strong, bruising forwards. That problem isn't going to be sorted out in one year, but the young gun showcased his patience when it came to blocking shots, as well as the ability to disrupt passing lanes with his long, gangly arms.
With Dwight Howard or Omer Asik protecting the rim, Jones' inability to go pound-for-pound with power forwards won't be as big of an issue as it was before. As long as he can funnel whoever he's guarding to wherever it's needed, wave his arms around enough to close down the occasional passing lane and use his excellent timing to disrupt shots around the basket, he'll be just fine.
There are two main short-comings to Terrence Jones' game:
1) He's a tweener. Jones' skill-set is a mix of a big man and a wing, yet he doesn't excel at anything in particular. He's sort of a jack of all trades, but a master of none. Right now, that's okay, as Jones won't be asked by Kevin McHale to do too much with the ball, but there's a lot to work on.
2) His jump-shot. Given the Rockets' style of play, Jones will be able to get up and down the court with James Harden, Jeremy Lin and Chandler Parsons, which should lead to some easy buckets. However, his inconsistent jumper could make him a liability in half-court sets and his limited driving game raises even more concerns.
In saying that, at the very least, Jones is a very good rebounder, who can run the floor, finish around the rim and hold his own on the defensive end. Given the fact that the Rockets already have a number of offensive weapons, Jones will be asked to do all those little things, which should be right up his alley.
If he is able to expand his game, find his so-called "natural position," and become more consistent, Jones will become a big-time asset for the Rockets in the future. After all, he's a 21 year old sophomore who's only played in 19 NBA games. He's shown a lot of promise already and the potential to be a good role player for the Rockets is certainly there.