Why Perry Jones III Would Benefit From Another Season in the NBA D-League

US PRESSWIRE

Perry Jones III spent most of last season in the D-League with the Tulsa 66ers and while he showed signs of brilliance, it is clear that a lot more work has to be done before he becomes a reliable threat on the Oklahoma City Thunder's second unit.

When the Oklahoma City Thunder drafted Perry Jones III with the 28th pick last summer, many considered him as the steal of the draft. Once touted as a top 10 recruit coming out of high school, Jones' stock dropped significantly after two seasons at Baylor when he was red flagged with potentially career ending knee problems. However, the Thunder were able to roll the dice on him, thanks to their already deep roster.

Jones didn't fit into the Thunder's immediate plans last season, so he spent most of his time in the D-League, where the forward averaged 14.3 points, 7.3 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.2 steals per game. While he showed signs of brilliance in his 15 games with the Tulsa 66ers, it was clear that he's still got some work to do before he becomes a reliable threat on the Thunder's second unit. To illustrate that, different components of his offensive game have been broken down with video.

Post-Ups

One knock scouts had on Perry Jones III coming out of college was his lack of toughness. At 6-foot-11 and 235 pounds, you'd think that he would be able to bang his way to the basket and use his near 7-foot-2 inch wing span to finish over the top of defenders. Unfortunately, that's not often the case as he tends to get pushed off the block, causing him to settle for long twos or put the ball on the floor and drive into traffic.

Another issue is that Jones' post-moves leave a lot to be desired. While he is somewhat effective when he catches the ball in the mid-to-low post area, Jones would benefit greatly from having a couple of simple go-to moves. However, it's worth noting that this isn't simply an adjustment to the NBA game-issue because Jones had the same problem when he was in college - he scored 0.795 points per possession on post-ups, per Draft Express.

Jump-Shot

For someone who is pushing 7-feet tall, Jones has a very nice looking jump-shot, yet he tends to get a little too confident in his ability to stretch the floor. While he had moments this season where he put his outside shooting on display, it often caused him to become overly reliant on it, which led to a dip in production. For example, in a playoff game against the Canton Charge on April 12th, Jones scored a season-low two points on 1-for-9 shooting from the floor and many of those misses came off of mid-range jumpers.

Given his size, athleticism and general skill set, one would prefer to see him put the ball on the floor and attack the rim instead of settling for jump-shots time and time again. But the problem is, even when he was at Baylor, Jones took far more jump-shots than the percentages say he should have.

From what I saw last season in the D-League, a lot of it can be blamed on inconsistency, as his ability to knock down jumpers fluctuated on a nightly basis. The potential is there, it's just a matter of honing that specific craft, which will take some time.

Athleticism

If it wasn't for a so-called "meniscus issue," Jones would have gone much higher in the 2012 NBA draft - possibly in the lottery - thanks in large part to how athletic he is. The only thing is, there is no telling how those knees will hold up because, according to one scout, they may only last 3-to-4 more years. Obviously, it's hard to project those kinds of things, so there is no telling how long he will be able to stay in the league, but year one is now over with and he looked okay. Let's just hope it stays that way.

But back to that athleticism.

In the pre-draft camp, Jones ran the 75-foot dash in 3.19 seconds, which was second to only Thomas Robinson among all power forwards. What's more, his max vertical of 38.5-inches also ranked him second, this time behind fellow D-Leaguer Josh Owens. Finally, he was up there in regards to highest reach, so when you put all of those factors together, he's a pretty scary specimen to see running up the court. When he does get a full head of steam, it's best to just get out of his way.

Transition

While Jones has impressive handles for someone of his stature, he has his moments when he lets his inner point guard take over. Problem is, he's never been a point guard and never will be.

Jones has the ability to push the ball in transition, yet when he gives it up to a guard and fills the lane, good things tend to happen. He's also much quicker than your average power forward, so he often finds himself beating other big men up the court, freeing him up for an easy look under the basket.

Handles

It's not often that a power forward can put the ball on the floor and finish around the rim like a guard, but Jones isn't your run of the mill big man. In half-court sets, he is more than capable of blowing by his defender and finishing at the rim. However, in the same way that his post-game needs a little refining, so does his perimeter game.

If Jones is able to become more of a threat from 15-feet, he would be able to benefit more from those impressive handles, as defenders tend to lay off of him, baiting him into shooting over them instead of putting it on the floor.

Decision Making

Jones is a pretty big target, so him setting a screen and rolling to the basket should be a point guard's dream. The only problem is, he prefers to pick and pop.

In 15 games with the 66ers, Jones attempted 17 threes and knocked them down at a poor rate - 29.4 percent. Most of those attempts came off of pick and pops and in most instances, he would have been much better off rolling to the basket.

In the video below, you'll see five clips which illustrate exactly what I'm talking about. The first of those shows Jones stepping back into a three instead of moving in closer for a very make-able shot. In the second clip, Jones pops out to the three instead of rolling to the basket. As both defenders jump to pressure the ball handler, Jones has a wide open lane to the basket, yet decides to settle for a three, which results in an air-ball. The third clip shows Jones setting a screen and instead of trailing the ball handler en route to the basket, he waits far too long by the three and is forced into taking a tough reverse lay-up. In the final two clips, however, Jones does the exact opposite and rolls to the basket, both of which result in something positive - a lay up and a pair of free throws.

The solution to his problem is simple: settle for less jump-shots. Even if he doesn't get a good look out of rolling to the basket, it will force the defense to crash down on him, opening up the floor for his teammates on the perimeter. And as that would likely be Kevin Durant, Thabo Sefolosha or Serge Ibaka if he gets the chance to log minutes with the Thunder this season, rolling to the basket is always the better decision.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that the potential is there with Jones. Given his athleticism and raw talent, he makes for an exciting prospect, but his game needs a lot of refining. While most pros look to develop a more consistent jump-shot as soon as they make it to the NBA, Jones would benefit more from adding some go-to moves to his arsenal, especially with his back to the basket.

In saying that, if Jones is able to add a reliable face-up jumper in the near future, that would only help him become a formidable option off of the Thunder's bench, as it would do wonders in opening up his game. Yet the main point here is that the sooner he learns how to score consistently without relying on his athleticism - whether that is around the basket or by improving his range - the better. But until he puts it all together, Jones would be better off spending some more time in the D-League with the Tulsa 66ers.

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