Perry Jones III was the ninth-rated recruit coming out of high school according to Rivals.com, so big things were expected from him at Baylor. His combination of size, athleticism and talent made him a “guaranteed” lottery pick. But that never happened. Jones has become a forgotten man from the 2012 draft class, but that might not stay the case for much longer.
Jones has been a pleasant surprise for the Oklahoma City Thunder this year. He’s currently the best three-point shooter on the roster, knocking down 43 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc, and he’s doing a little of everything for head coach Scott Brooks.
Despite his impressive play, Jones has struggled to find consistent playing time on a very deep Thunder roster.
That’s about to change.
Jones has been getting more burn recently, as noted by Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman:
Early minutes for Perry Jones. He's played in four straight games, 7 out of the past nine.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 30, 2013
On a team that has plenty of offensive playmakers, Jones is making his mark with defense. Consequently, he’s beginning to earn Coach Brooks’ trust and is receiving more meaningful minutes as a result.
His unique blend of length, athleticism and strength isn’t lost on Brooks, who described Jones as his “utility defender” according to Darnell Mayberry of The Oklahoman.
Jones’ path to playing time is his versatility on the defensive end. He has the size to guard post players but the speed to switch out to opposing point guards. The sample size is small, but he’s been an elite defender according to SynergySports:
|Play Type||Points Allowed Per Possession|
|Pick-and-Roll Ball Handler||0.00|
He can destroy pick-and-rolls with his switching ability, but he’s also excellent at closing out on shooters and defending isolations.
With every minute, Jones is gaining experience and confidence—so an increase in usage is inevitable if he continues to play well. There is another factor that works in his favor, however.
The injury to Russell Westbrook was a tremendous blow for OKC, but the bright side is that it gives the younger players more minutes, which will serve them well in the playoffs.
Reggie Jackson is obviously going to be upgraded to a starting role with Westbrook momentarily out of the picture, but Brooks has indicated that other players will get the chance to compensate for Westbrook’s absence:
Brooks indicated that beyond the obvious (Jackson/Lamb), Perry Jones and Andre Roberson may see some added opportunities. Fisher, too.— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) December 27, 2013
Jones won’t be replacing Westbrook directly, of course, but Westbrook’s minutes will need to be divided among the depth players.
Injuries are an unfortunate part of professional sports, but they always open the door for other players to step into larger roles. Whether Jones will be able to seize the opportunity he’s been given remains to be seen, but his time is now.
All the stars are aligning for Jones to break out and deliver on his tremendous potential. He’s going to be a consistent part of the OKC rotation from here on out.
Are you ready for your close-up, Mr. Jones?
Note: All statistics are accurate as of December 30th, 2013