Konstantinos Panas of Ola Prasina examines how former Baylor Bear star and OKC Thunder bust Perry Jones III might be the best option to fill a need for Panathinaikos at power forward
Suggesting a power forward for a team with needs as complex as those of the Greens wasn’t easy. I imagined a pure forward, which under conditions and due to his size, is able to play as a centre. My buddy suggested a player who needs to get a fresh start but has the talent to be Euroleague material.
So I told him, find me a forward that can switch and defend the perimeter and while we were searching, he said… “Perry Jones” and that’s how we started looking more closely at the former OKC Thunder man.
Perry Jones why I’m looking at him
The player was nurtured in a great college program, Baylor. He is athletic, fast and superb in transition offense. Coached by Scott Drew for a couple of years, he learned better than anyone what help defense and switches look like. He was by far the best student in the amazing zone defence of Baylor (2-3 or 1-1-3) with lots of speed and covering. Look at Baylor’s NBA products in recent times: The ‘long’ Cory Jefferson, Quincy Miller, Brian Skinner, Quincy Acy and of course Perry Jones III.
The key features associated with this crop of Baylor players were speed, athleticism and team defense. Jones was picked in the first round of the 2012 NBA Draft from the Thunder, who wanted a good option to step in for Kevin Durant when the star sat. Jones never justified OKC’s decision of picking him at number 28. His problems were exacerbated by a knee injury that got him down but he remains a great under-developed product. With the right environment, he can become an elite Euroleague player. The important thing is for Jones to stop thinking about making the NBA, where he has no chance of even getting a minimum contract. With his age and playing style however he could be fit in any frontcourt in Europe, including Panathinaikos.
I’d love to see next to James Gist, a player with such length and ability to defend the perimeter after switches or at the same time a player with scoring instincts, an ability that Gist does not have. Jones has the physical tools to become a top class defender in cooperation with Argyris Pedoylakis, that’s why he looks the right fit for the Greens.
Jones could constitute a high risk for Panathinaikos, since he has been inactive for a long time, but with certainty, this player could be a top notch contributor with a team that will work with him on his game.
He has the physical tools to compete against any player in Europe in terms of size, footwork and athleticism. Standing at 6’11 with a wingspan of 7’ 1.75” and standing reach of 8’ 11”, clearly he has the size to make a difference. He is guard in a centre’s body, he has the build to play either as a small and power forward in NBA. In Europe he could play mainly as a power forward, but his ability to attack and defense the close out, could earn him some minutes as a wing player. He could also play as a centre due to his size, but only against soft player who hasn’t developed their post game. I couldn’t imagine him defending Esteban Batista in the post.
His upper body is well built and I still remember the games against Jeff Ayres. Jones was unable to push back in the post, but here we go again to the fact that it’s hard for him at compete against players who use aggressive back downs and having the ability to finish plays quite easy near the paint. I give him a good grade for defending the post, because he knows how to put his body against the opposition and he doesn’t let any shot uncontested. He needs to grow some muscles though. His shoulders are quite flexible but he doesn’t really fight for the rebound and that’s something to concern. Although he is quite proper in boxing out and stays on his personal opponent without leaving him.
One of his highest threats, perhaps the greatest, is the transition offence. Jones has excellent ball handling and the ability to run a coast to coast by himself, with great efficiency on finishing. That tranisition offence threat is why he was the best forward in that category through his college years with a PPP (Point per possession) of 1.6/1.7. He is excellent of catching the ball under any situation and the fact that has such an amazing catch ‘n finish ability (around 35 per cent efficiency) makes him as a great target in transition.
While Jones has ball handling that would impress most guards, he doesn’t really have a crossover for breaking ankles neither has he developed great speed after the first step, but he has the ability to beat his defender even with a size up or hesitation dribble. He doesn’t really change directions, but he chooses one way and he attacks the basket quite well.
Attacking the basket is also an important skill of Jones. More than 20 per cent of his points derived from these situations. He has a tremendous and explosive first step, utilising his size and ability to finish near the basket. He can finish with both hands, with contact and under difficult conditions. He is not afraid to attack and can find the miss match quite easily. He will attack against slow defenders, mostly using the dribble fake and changing the directions. He uses the dribble fake mostly for defeating the close out D. He has an efficiency of 40 per cent under contact and about 35 per cent when attacking the basket and is able to finish with both hands.
From observing Jones we can see his ability to become an initiator and run plays. He will ask for the ball at the top of the key mostly for attacking the basket. After the rebound he likes to run the offence. Without the ball he contains a good motor and can quickly run from defence to offence. With the ball in his hands he likes to run himself, occasionally he might throw a quick pass to the free teammate.
Looking at his post offence, with Iowa (in the D-League) and in flex motion playing as a small forward he would get a down screen and asked for the ball near the elbow. Jones isn’t the kind of player to back down hard and reach the paint, instead he might turn for the fadeaway J or some long hook. The first part it is actually his biggest weakness. Particularly in all the games I have watched with him playing his efficiency using the fadeaway was way bad, under 10 per cent. The long hook was better but, again, not so consistent. He feels more comfortable when he is facing up from the high post where he just pivots for a medium distance shot. He has around 50 per cent efficiency, when he receives the ball at the high post.
The enigmatic part with Jones is the shooting. He has smooth mechanics and great excellent timing with his limbs. He doesn’t use his big length at the jump, instead relying on his release which occurs way over his forehead. It is truly hard to block. The release is quite rapid with his hands falling from vertical, instantly. He makes moderate screens, quite soft and he doesn’t roll. He mostly plays Pop, but he doesn’t produce big numbers from these situations. As a small forward he likes to attack from the wings after using side picks and attacking off the dribble. As a power forward he waits as a spot shooter at the top and the wings. He feels comfortable from the top where his high numbers are produced. Around 35 per cent of his perimeter points come by shooting from the top. Generally he needs work to stabilise his shooting. With such great mechanics he just needs work to become a descent stretch-4.
On defence Jones is good and has high potential to be a lot better. He has tremendous footwork for a 6’11” guy. His lateral steps are very good and has the ability to switch off the screens. Although in Iowa, who didn’t play with switches that much, he just tried to contest the shot. It was rare for someone to go against him one on one and on such occasions it was very hard to beat him, because he has very good lateral speed and he defence on the ball is brilliant. Jones is smart enough not to commit cheap fouls and is also capable of playing a decent close out defense. He has rim protector instincts, however he is also exceptional in help defense and most of his blocks come from those situations. Jones likes to chase down and prevents the shot as well. He is never reluctant, especially when it comes to post defence. One thing that concerns me is that he doesn’t go aggressive on the ball or the fact he doesn’t give much energy on the defensive end. While he has all the necessary elements to defend against any player, he seems more eager to attack.
Overall he is a player that is still evolving but contains amazing skills and potential to become a top Euroleague player. He is a high risk option, as Quincy Miller was for Crvena Zvezda or James Anderson for Zalgiris once were.
He is not a firework type of player and he tends to adapt to whatever his team’s style demands. Sometimes it seems he tries to overcome his deficiencies and do things out of his repertoire leading to him getting lost. He lacks rhythm and consistency, but due to his age and potential that can be covered next to a coach like Pedoulakis and a teacher like Gist. I believe Panathinaikos has the need of a player like Jones in the power forward spot. An athletic guy with such good pace and length, able to defend the perimeter and could play two or three positions.
This article is based on a column in Greek on Ola Prasina.