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Player Preview: Terrence Jones, the rookie third wheel who might roll the best

Rockets rookie Terrence Jones might end up the best player of the Rocket three first round picks, and perhaps one of the best players of the entire draft. Yes indeed, it's a big day for Mr. Jones.

Brett Davis-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Mr. Jones, put a wiggle in your stride.

Loosen up.

I believe he’ll be alright.

(The quotes are from this song by the Talking Heads)

Meet Mr. Terrence Jones, the 18th pick of the 2012 draft, and the Rockets third pick of the day. There’s a chance he’ll end up the best pick of the day, for the Rockets, maybe for anyone. It’s not impossible, and I’m becoming convinced he should have gone in the top 12, maybe earlier.

By the numbers, Mr. Jones is 6’9" and weighs a muscled up 252 pounds. His wingspan is a positive, at 7’2". (caw!) Let’s get some perspective on those numbers. Of the centers drafted that night Jones’ wingspan and reach is significantly exceed only by Andre Drummond and Festus Ezeli. He weighs more than Leonard or Zeller, with equal or greater reach and wingspan than either.

How people can make a case that guy who exceeds the measurables of most NBA center prospects in his draft class won’t be able to play power forward is beyond me. Terrence Jones is faster, stronger, heavier, and more athletic, and possessed of a greater wingspan and reach, in some combination, than any of those players. At power forward from his draft class, John Henson exceeds Jones’ reach and wingspan, but he weighs almost 40lbs less. Jared Sullinger is heavier, but cannot jump, at all.

Why go through this exercise? To convince you Terrence Jones can play PF. And the Rockets have approximately 17 power forwards. Three of them need significant minutes. It's nice, but...

But, wait, there’s more! Mr. Jones can also play SF. His handle and quickness appear NBA solid, good enough to stay in front of all but the fastest of Association SF. Jones should end up as powerful as any SF in the NBA outside of Lebron James and Ron Artest (and he’s quicker than Artest).

In short, Terrence Jones could be a walking mismatch – big and strong enough to play in the post, but quicker than most post players. He’s quick enough to play on the wing, but bigger and stronger than most wing players. He has outside range (that could develop into about a 36% 3pt percentage), and has great first step to drive to the rim. He has an instinct for crashing the boards, can hawk the passing lanes and ghost inside for a block or offensive board. That’s the upside.

The knock is that maybe he’s a tweener, not enough inside game to play at PF, not enough outside game to play at SF. I think he’s got the physical tools not to be considered a tweener at either spot. I think the fact that he put up the numbers he did at Kentucky, while willingly taking on the utility role speaks to his innate productivity. His contributions might get overlooked by some pundits, the way Lamar Odom’s best work has been overlooked. Jones, like Odom, could be so versatile he doesn’t seem like a standout at any given position. It doesn’t matter. That kind of production doesn’t win many awards, but it does win a lot of basketball games.

It’s a big day for Mr. Jones

He is not so square

Mr. Jones will stick around

He’s everybody’s friend

Jones averaged 12.3ppg, 7.2rpg, 50% fg, and 33% 3pt on a Kentucky NCAA champion so loaded it sent 5 players to the NBA in the first round. What does that mean for his production numbers? They seem a little light for an elite player. But I believe there probably weren’t enough shots to go around on the NBA’s 31st team, and Jones is such a versatile and unselfish player he likely sacrificed some of his game for the good of winning a national title.

Jones likes to win titles. After a bitter loss to UConn his freshman season, Jones likely sacrificed draft status and stuck around for another shot at the top. He succeeded. Whatever happens, he knows he’s won a championship. In fact he’s won championships at every level he’s played at, 4 titles in 6 years.

Terrence Jones has some claim to being the best Oregon high school player of all time (in competition with Kevin Love). He’s the only player to lead his high school to three consecutive state titles, and he averaged 32pts, 13rbs, 5 ast, 3blk, 3stl as a high schooler. That might mean little, a man among boys, but as we saw from summer league, Jones is fully capable of putting up those kinds of numbers right now.

When let off the leash in NBA Summer League Vegas, Terrence Jones appeared to be the most NBA ready and the most unstoppable player of all the guys I saw (and I think I watched every game at some point.) With apologies to Damian Lillard, it’s easier to pile up the stats from the point, giving yourself tons of shots, than PF or SF. Jones impressed me more than anyone except the Rocket’s own Jeremy Lamb in summer league action (and I really liked what I saw from Royce White and Donatas Motiejunas.)

Watching video, its evident Mr. Jones can handle, he can rebound, he can take players in the post with a small but effective assortment of deep moves. He plays the passing lanes for steals and gets blocks from the backside. His, passing is remarkably assured for a big man and certainly adequate for a big wing. He looks like he can develop NBA 3pt range. His drive off the shot fake looks to be devastating, as once in motion to the hoop he seems to simply appear at the rim, a bit like Lebron.

Bigger players are too slow to hold him, smaller players are too weak. Lots of strengths, and very few weaknesses, make for a complete player. Terrence Jones can do some of everything, and guys like that can push teams to a title.

They call for Mr. Jones

They put him in charge

Mr Jones will help us out

He’s a lucky guy