With the NBA Draft fast approaching on June 28, we at Bright Side of the Sun want to cover all the bases regarding the possible players who the Suns could draft with the (likely) #13th pick.
With only 6 players under contract and nobody who qualifies as untouchable, the Suns may be in a position where they choose to draft the best player on the board regardless of position. The subject of the following review may just be that player if he is available when the Suns are on the clock.
NBA draft coverage continues with a look at Terrence Jones from the NCAA champion Kentucky Wildcats.
Jones is a 6'9" 245 lb. power forward with an NBA ready body and a skill set that compares favorably to many premiere NBA big men. While his offensive game lacks polish, it appears he is capable of being an above average, if not exceptional, defender at the NBA level.
Jones has great mobility for his size and may be able to split time between the 3 and the 4 depending on matchups. He is capable of running the floor to get easy transition baskets and has good ball handling skills for a big.
Judging from what has been described so far, this doesn't sound like a player that is usually available at the back end of the lottery. Test your vertical to find out why it's possible he might be and whether he is a good fit for the Suns.
Here are Jones's college statistics:
Why Jones is gone before #13
Jones has great mobility for a player his size. I think he has the ability to run the court similar to a player like Josh Smith (who many here have seemed enamored with recently), but he already has 20 pounds on Smith (245-250lbs. from different sources) at the age of 20. While some look at his lack of ideal power forward height as a possible weakness, his versatility with his mobility and physique may allow him to defend multiple positions and shift between the 3 and the 4 to exploit matchups.
At 6'9" (with shoes), Jones is only average height (to slightly smallish) for a power forward, but blessed with a 7'2" wingspan and above average jumping ability, he is still a legitimate shot blocking threat. Jones blocked nearly two shots a game in both of his seasons at Kentucky and shot blocking (like rebounding) tends to transfer fairly well to the next level.
Jones's wingspan and leaping ability also translate into him being a very effective finisher at the rim. He can play above the rim in traffic for put backs and rebounds. He has the ability to throw down highlight reel, crowd inciting dunks (does anybody else still remember what an alley-oop is?). He would be a panacea for one of the Suns biggest weaknesses - their paucity of athleticism. In addition, this enables Jones to forecast as an above average rebounder at the NBA level. While his rebounding numbers dipped slightly in his sophomore season, that may have been in part to the Anthony Davis effect.
Jones already has the pedigree of receiving the tutelage of John Calipari for two seasons at Kentucky and being part of a winning tradition with a final four appearance and national championship. On a side note, the Suns may have the perfect person to continue mentoring Jones, as it occurs to me they may have an athletic, versatile, mobile, 6'8" forward who plays pretty good defense and might be able to pass along a couple pearls of wisdom.
Even if Jones never blossoms into a veritable star, I could easily see a 15 ppg, 9 rpg, 1.5 bpg type of player that could couple with a good defensive center to form a truly imposing tandem in the middle for an NBA team.
Why Jones is still available at #13
Jones has decent height (the 6'9" is with shoes), but not great by NBA standards. There has been some speculation that he may be somewhat of a tweener at the next level. His style of play supports this as he at times plays like a stretch four on offense, settling for outside shots which he doesn't make with a high level of proficiency. In addition to the work Jones needs to put in on his midrange and outside shooting, he is still a poor free throw shooter.
Jones freshman campaign at Kentucky started with a feverish pace and tapered off as the season progressed. The Wildcats still advanced to the final four, and Jones returned to school despite being projected as a potential lottery pick. Jones sophomore season may not have helped his cause. Although advanced statistics show he was more efficient in many aspects, many felt he didn't show enough improvement or a natural progression.
The Kentucky Wildcat team he played for may have contributed to these deficiencies. With that much talent on the floor, it may have been easier for Jones to defer to his teammates or take a more passive role. The Wildcats could have 6 players taken in the first round of this year's NBA draft. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, and Terrence Jones are slated to be lottery picks. Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague, and Darius Miller are likely mid to late first round picks.
Then, there's the elephant in the room. Despite Jones's numerous physical tools, there is concern about his mental makeup. Jones struggles to remain engaged and has suspect mental toughness. His play tends to be inconsistent from game to game, and even from half to half. It has been intimated that he "checks out" of games.
Going off of a couple different outlets, there is at least a possibility that Jones will still be available at the Suns current draft position. While Draft Express has Terrence Jones ranked 9th in their top 100 prospects, Chad Ford of ESPN has him at 14. As we all know, these mock drafts can vary widely.
This may be a power forward heavy draft. Besides Anthony Davis (projected to go #1 overall) and Thomas Robinson (projected top 5), there are 4 other power forwards that may be selected as lottery picks. Jared Sullinger, Perry Jones, John Henson, and Terrence Jones are all intriguing options and it is even possible they all might be gone by the 13th pick. Based on the supply, however, one or more of these players may be on the board.
There are two teams ahead of the Suns with multiple lottery picks (Portland and New Orleans). Portland already has Aldridge firmly entrenched as a starter, so it may not make sense for them to draft a back up using a lottery pick. New Orleans very likely will draft one power forward, but almost certainly not two.
The reasons that Jones might drop to the Suns are also some of the reasons the Suns might not take him. Jones will be a risk/reward pick to a certain extent. While his athleticism, defense, rebounding, and shot blocking make it hard to believe he will be a complete bust, his weaknesses make many wary that he won't reach his full potential.
Markieff Morris probably also factors into the Suns decision making process. Although they are not identical players, they still occupy the same basic position on the court. If Lillard or Marshall is available, do the Suns draft a different position based on need? What if Jones is higher than the point guards on the Suns big board, do the Suns draft the best player available?
Here's a quick rundown in review:
NBA size - check
NBA athleticism - check
Mobility/Runs the Floor - check
Shot Blocking - check
Rebounding - check
Finishing at the Rim - check
Outside Shooting - needs improvement
Post Game - needs improvement
Free Throw Shooting - needs improvement
Intangibles - the crux of the dilemma
Jones has most of the tools that can't be taught. Shooting can generally be worked on and improved. The real question seems to be whether he has the mental fabric to be an elite (or at least above average starter) player at the NBA level? If it weren't for that issue, Jones would probably be a top 5 pick instead of a player that might even slip to the Suns at 13. If he is still on the board when the Suns pick I would think he will draw serious consideration. What are your thoughts?