Perry Jones III Is Critical to Success of OKC Thunder's Bench
The Oklahoma City Thunder are devoid of two major things as the 2013-14 preseason gets underway.
Will Perry Jones III be a legitimate piece of the Thunder's bench rotation?
Second, they are without an athletically gifted big man on their bench who's capable of giving the Thunder a serious spark off the bench.
Well, actually they aren't without a player like that. The player who can fill that void just hasn't fully realized his potential yet. That player is Mr. "I should've been drafted higher" Perry Jones III.
All of the focus on the Thunder's second unit is on Reggie Jackson and his playoff production last year and Jeremy Lamb and his summer league highlights.
While both players are deserving of significant attention regarding what they can bring to the Thunder's otherwise underwhelming bench, the real focus needs to be on Jones.
Why? Because he's the kind of player who can give defenses headaches with his rare mix of size, athleticism and agility. He also brings something to the floor that the Thunder haven't had in a while—bench production from a big man who has range and athleticism.
Last season, Jones was a complete mess.
He ended the year after being "the steal of the draft," with averages of 2.3 points and 1.6 rebounds in just 7.4 minutes per game. That's not exactly the kind of production the Thunder's front office expected from the big man out of Baylor.
If you've forgotten just what Jones is capable of—thanks to his dismal rookie year—take a trip down memory lane and check out his highlights from his years dominating the college ranks.
The two biggest components of Jones' game are his ability to spread the floor with his range and his athleticism at and above the rim.
That is exactly what the Thunder need coming off the bench because it makes them a much deeper and more versatile team.
Versatility off the bench makes teams difficult to match up with, and it throws off other teams' rotations.
With Westbrook going down again and missing the first 4-6 weeks of the regular season, Reggie Jackson will be in the starting lineup for the first part of the season.
That leaves Jeremy Lamb to be the Thunder's primary scoring option off the bench. If he doesn't pan out, the bench responsibility falls squarely on Jones' shoulders.
That's a lot of pressure for the unproven hybrid forward, but it's the exact opportunity he needs to prove his value in this league.
Without Jones stepping up his game, the Thunder will remain a "one-trick pony" kind of team with a lot of firepower in the starting lineup but no spark coming off the bench.
Unfortunately, Jones wasn't able to be a part of the summer league due to an oral infection. Because of that we weren't able to see if Jones had made any development this offseason, and that leaves us with even more uncertainty as the tip of the regular season inches closer.
While they can survive in the Western Conference and make the playoffs without bench production, they can't be the top team in the NBA
It takes serious depth to be the top team in the NBA, and without Jones stepping his game up, the Thunder won't have the level of depth they need.
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