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Phoenix Suns NBA Draft Series: Perry Jones III, PF, Baylor; A Risk Worth Taking

Jones is a tremendous athlete who doesn't always produce like one.
Jones is a tremendous athlete who doesn't always produce like one.

With the NCAA's "one and done" rule, selecting players in the NBA draft involves a good amount of tea leaf reading and broad projections. The most talented players generally declare themselves eligible for the draft after their freshman seasons at the tender age of 19 or 20, with thin lists of accomplishments gathered facing similarly young, unproven players.

This is why the words "potential" and "upside" are so prevalent in scouting reports. Can the guy be an effective NBA player? There's a lot of educated guessing involved in answering that question about unfinished products.

A more extreme example of this is Baylor forward Perry Jones III, one of the top 10 prospects coming out of high school and now, after two years of college ball, more enigmatic than when he arrived on campus. In the current wall to wall sports news and opinion environment, Jones is already viewed as an underachiever at only 20 years of age.

What NBA scouts see is a supremely talented athlete who is still finding his way as a player and a young man, a jack of all trades who has yet to discover his niche on the court, and has been perceived as somewhat of a disappointment for his less than stellar production at Baylor.

Jones carries a high degree of risk as one of the bigger boom or bust players among the elite prospects. Should the Suns roll the dice and select Jones if he's available at #13 in June 28th's draft?

Tale of the tape:
  • Perry James Jones III, Baylor, played two years of college basketball
  • 6'11", 220 lbs, 7'3" wingspan
  • 20 years old, will be 21 when 2012-13 NBA season starts
  • 2011 All-Big 12 Second Team, 2012 All-Big 12 Third Team

Arriving at Baylor to much fanfare and a bit of controversy, as Baylor didn't normally land high end recruits like the McDonalds HS All-American, Jones earned All-Big 12 honors in his freshman season and would likely have been a lottery pick had he entered last year's NBA draft. Instead, he opted to stay another year at Baylor because Jones realized he needed additional maturity; unfortunately, it was a season that provided more ammunition for his critics and did little to bolster his draft stock.

Despite showing flashes of his elite abilities, including athleticism and a game that features a little bit of everything, he also displayed inconsistency and uneven performance, vanishing completely for long stretches of play, and not carrying his team the way a player of his caliber is expected to do.

Closing his college career in the 2012 NCAA tournament, Jones scored only 2 points in the first round vs. South Dakota St. in a win, and then went for 17 points and 8 rebounds in an Elite Eight loss to eventual champion Kentucky. More of the inconsistency and apparent underachievement for a player with such potential led to charges of softness and a low basketball IQ.

These highlights show the wide range of skills he possesses:

In body type, Jones looks a bit like Kevin Garnett, except that he needs to bulk up and toughen up to be anything close to KG, who was an early bloomer of historic proportions. Jones will need more time to develop, and the team drafting him will be best served by taking a patient approach, working to develop him with strong coaching and veteran mentoring.

As we can see from Jones' productivity at Baylor, he's not close to a finished product and, most troubling, didn't show marked progress last year.

2010-11 Baylor Big 12 30 33.9 5.4 9.8 .549 0.1 0.3 .200 3.0 4.6 .664 7.2 1.2 0.5 0.9 2.3 2.4 13.9
2011-12 Baylor Big 12 33 30.7 5.5 11.0 .500 0.3 1.0 .303 2.2 3.1 .696 7.6 1.3 0.8 0.6 1.7 2.3 13.5
Career Baylor 63 32.2 5.5 10.5 .522 0.2 0.7 .279 2.6 3.8 .678 7.4 1.2 0.7 0.7 2.0 2.3 13.7

2010-11 Baylor Big 12 30 1017 19.8 .579 .553 9.8 15.8 12.9 8.0 0.9 3.0 16.1 21.6 112.2 98.2 2.5 1.7 4.1
2011-12 Baylor Big 12 33 1013 21.2 .539 .514 11.0 18.3 14.8 8.7 1.6 2.1 12.0 23.3 113.4 97.7 1.8 2.0 3.7
Career Baylor 63 2030 20.5 .558 .531 10.4 17.0 13.8 8.3 1.3 2.6 13.9 22.4 112.8 98.0 4.2 3.6 7.9
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 6/1/2012.

Jonathan Givony of Draft Express had this to say about Jones' game at Baylor:

He sees the biggest share of his possessions in the post, either with his back to the basket, or facing up from the mid-post. He doesn't really have the strength or toughness to be overly effective backing opponents down, but his excellent size, length and quickness allows him to get shots off here with relative ease. He shows nice potential with his smooth footwork and soft touch around the basket, particularly with his jump-hook, but will have to improve on his ability to draw fouls and finish through contact if he's to maximize this part of his game.

Where Jones seems to be more effective at the moment is facing up from 12-18 feet in isolation settings. His incredibly quick first step and long strides allow him to blow by opponents, and he can finish strong at the rim thanks to his terrific leaping ability or with a floater inside the paint.

These are skills in short supply on the current Suns roster and, with patient development, Jones could become a major contributor. Head coach Alvin Gentry is known as a players' coach, but the Suns' recent track record at developing young players hasn't been impressive: Goran Dragic, Robin Lopez and Earl Clark all struggled in Phoenix, with the team giving up on Dragic and Clark. It's too soon to tell on Markieff Morris, who just completed a decent but unspectacular rookie season.

Of course, patient development might be hard to come by if Steve Nash returns and the Suns will have only a 2 or 3 year window with Nash left to compete. The flip side is that having the veteran leadership and role models of work ethic and team building exemplified by Nash and Grant Hill should aid the youngster's development, as Suns President Lon Babby maintains is happening with Morris.

It's hard for me to imagine a player of Jones' uncommon gifts will be available when the Suns pick at #13. A few teams will pass on him due to questions of toughness and work ethic, but it only takes one team ahead of the Suns to fall in love with his potential and upside for him to be selected, and I'm expecting that to happen.

Should he be available at #13, it's a no-brainer: the Suns have to take him. He might not contribute much right away, but has the chance to be a star in a few years. And what would be the cost if he busts? Solid role players such as Morris or Lopez are about the best that can be expected at that slot, so it's not a bad place to take a risk for a team in need of young talent. It's easy to find solid role players, much more difficult to find potential stars.

What say you, Brightsiders?

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