The basketball coach at my high school and I will often swap ideas and news from around the basketball world. He and I would take the talking points from potential trading partners, playoff races, and inevitably the draft. He and I share a love for the game, but our perspectives as fans are largely different. I am, obviously a Kings fan and he is a Spurs fan. Their coaching and play style drew him in over a decade ago, and he has enjoyed a lofty experience with them. I will usually bring up the draft, because my team has a much larger stake in it than his, and he will weigh in on my amateur scouting reports.
Today, I asked him about the enigmatic forward from Baylor, Perry Jones III. He has been ranked from 20th all the way to the top three in this year's draft. Possessing a tantalizing set of skills that translates to extremely high potential, he has sparked much interest from STR readers. Some here even say he could be the second best player picked behind Anthony Davis. While I knew he was talented, I couldn't help but be cautious with my enthusiasm. My coach asked me if I'd heard of Casey Arent. He was a student who completed two years at Sierra Community College in Rocklin and transferred to play for the Oklahoma Sooners basketball team. He towers over most at 6'10, and more interestingly he played in direct competition with both Perry Jones III and another first round candidate, Quincy Miller.
The Sooners faced the Bears in the regular season and lost 65-77, with Perry Jones posting 21 points and 12 boards. He seemingly dominated on the scoreboard, but coming away from the game Casey and the other guys all had a consensus on Jones and Miller. They were tissue paper soft. My coach went on to tell me that Oklahoma had begun game planning to out-muscle Jones, and only by the grace that their shots were not falling did they lose. Players on the Oklahoma bench were marveling at how Jones or Miller expected to make it in the NBA with their body-types if they were so afraid of contact. Jones is a very lengthy player who will succeed in this league by getting to the rim (he sure won't succeed with that 27% college 3PT%), and if he is afraid of contact he will be losing out on a lot of opportunities to score for his team. The same goes for Miller, who was a mediocre shooter in college that has the length to get to the basket. But Miller and Jones are at different positions in the draft, with Jones III getting much more scrutiny as he will likely be a top 10 pick based off of his potential.
Jones has been labeled by scouts a low motor player, and many worry his potential will never pan out. Two years ago, we took a gamble on a "bad-character" player and it paid off rather nicely, but DeMarcus Cousins never had issues with motivation. He posted some amazing statistics that were often compared to a young Shaquille O'Neal. His negative attitude could always be rooted out with age and experience, and he has grown up plenty in his two seasons in Sacramento. In fact, his attitude might be one of his strongest assets. He never wants to lose, and personally, I want my players to be angry when they lose. They just have to be careful not to lose sight of the gameplan as well as the scope of an entire season's worth of progress. DeMarcus Cousins was just never largely questioned for his motivation by anyone who had met him or seen him play. However, Perry Jones III has been labeled as a player who will mentally check out of a game. This is a much more prevalent issue that leads to busts. Just for posterity's sake, I checked out the scouting reports on high-profile players coming out of college that were famous for their underwhelming production in the NBA.
Positives: The most gifted player in the draft, Brown is a great athlete with exceptional basketball skills. he can handle the ball like a guard and has a good-looking stroke from 15 to 17 feet. Brown also has good floor vision and passes extremely well. Brown is currently at his best when he faces up and takes people off the dribble using an excellent crossover dribble. Defensively, Brown is a devastating shotblocker with superb leaping ability, timing and reach. Because of his combination of size, strength and skill, Brown is often compared to Chris Webber and Kevin Garnett. At this point, Brown has a much more NBA-ready physique than Garnett had coming out of high school.
Negatives: Unfortunately, Brown does not enjoy posting up offensively and takes far too many three-pointers. Despite Garnett-level skills, Brown has yet to demonstrate the burning competitiveness that Garnett exhibited at the same stage of development.
Positives: Nicknamed "Baby Shaq" by some prep basketball observers, Curry has the physical tools to dominate in the paint. He has explosive leaping ability, quickness and agility that belies his massive frame. Curry's hands are sure and his footwork is good enough to indicate that he will eventually develop into a lethal post-up threat. Curry has a soft touch on shots in the paint and is a powerful dunker and rebounder. He blocks shots well and runs the floor effectively when he is not fatigued.
Negatives: Curry's stamina and intensity have been questioned by observers who felt that he did not dominate prep opponents as consistently as he should have. At times, Curry displays an annoying tendency to dribble the ball in traffic, but this is a flaw that can be corrected through patient coaching. Hopefully, Curry's near Shaqesque FT shooting can also be corrected. While he is not fat, there are concerns that Curry possesses the body type to develop a weight problem down the road.
Positives: Haywood is a manchild with immense size and very good agility. He has huge, soft hands and very long arms. He has become a very good shotblocker and has the size to eventually become a good overall low post defender. Offensively, Haywood stays close to the basket and has the shooting touch to convert shots in the paint. Despite having stayed at UNC for four years, Haywood is still only 21 years old and still has considerable upside.
Negatives: Haywood has been maligned throughout his Carolina career and has pretty much been labeled a soft underachiever. His stamina is poor and when he gets tired, he tends to absolutely disappear. Haywood does not have a true low post arsenal and brings the ball down too low in traffic, allowing smaller players to strip him.
Now for Perry:
Strengths: A super athletic forward with an enormous upside … His explosiveness and physical package put him in a very rare group of players even at the top level … Possesses the versatility to play inside and on the perimeter … He is extremely fast, using his long and powerful strides to cover great distance in a very short time … A very natural and smooth athlete, he is able to change direction and get off the ground (even on 2nd and 3rd jumps) with ease … Has the ability and confidence to handle the ball in the open court and is willing to push it out in transition once he gets it off the glass … Shows an intriguing repertoire of moves off the dribble (going to both hands), add to that his extremely long and fairly quick first step and it makes for a very difficult weapon to match up with off the bounce … He has a knack for moving without the ball; he makes good cuts going to the basket and knows how to find the openings off drive & dish or pick & roll situations … His ability to catch difficult passes in traffic also makes him a good passing target inside … Once his catches the ball close to the hoop, he is an extremely efficient finisher, because he knows how to utilize his length and leaping ability … He is able to do some damage on the low block because of his reach and athleticism, but he is most effective when facing up, because he can use his quickness to get by opposing bigs … He is a decent rebounder, and when he makes up his mind to go get the ball, he becomes a threat on both ends of the floor … Has the potential to become an impact player on the defensive end, where his wingspan could wreak havoc in the passing lanes and in the blocked shots department …
Weaknesses: Even with all of his tools and upside, he's still a project and very much an unpolished product … He had a solid first season, but still fell short of the expectations and hype he had coming out of high school (part of the problem were the system and his teammates who were less than willing to get him the ball) … A big question mark is his demanor and approach to the game, too many times he is satisfied by just coasting and taking the easy route … The lack of strength and unwillingness to play to contact further add to his somewhat soft label … His lanky frame and high center of gravity allow much smaller players to body and push him off balance and he does not show the willingness to battle back … Finishing off the dribble is also a problem because any bump from a defender throws him out of stride and he is more willing to take an off balance shot rather than one through contact … He is still very young in terms of his development age and it shows in his careless and lackadaisical play with the ball … Lacking the savvy and understanding of angles, he has a hard time finding his passing target on a regular basis … His jumpshot has a lot of promise, but it is a bit of a mystery; he seems to have a fairly smooth stroke, his release shows fluidity and he has a nice rhythm shooting off the dribble or on the move, however the results and consistency are lacking … His potential in terms of rebounding and defense is unlimited, he has the tools to defend all five positions and the athleticism to get his hands on a high percentage of missed shots, however, at this point in his career he does not show the willingness to defend or rebound on a regular basis …
A common theme with these players is that they came into the draft with a lot of promise but brought softness and a lack of competitive fire. They have all the tools in the world to succeed, but they simply did not have the motivation or the attitude to match. Two of the three are advertised as potential laden prospects who are still raw, but have done little to nothing to play up to their talent level yet. I pointed out that Jones III has been touted as an extremely potential-filled prospect, and the coach turned to me and said:
"Potential means you just haven't done crap with it yet. I'd rather go with proven results and actual gameplay when adding a player to my team."
Coming away from my discussion with him, my suspicions were confirmed that Perry Jones III has shown a lot of signs that he could be a bust in the NBA. I think eventually a team picks him based off of his gifts as a basketball player, but I think he will either be picked too high or he'll fall to the point where he is simply the most valuable pick. The Kings will in all likelihood have the chance to pick him, and if we get the spot we're projected for our probably selections will include:
Bradley Beal (SG Florida)
Andre Drummond (C/PF Connecticut)
Terrence Jones (F Kentucky)
Tyler Zeller (C North Carolina)
John Henson (PF/C North Carolina)
Jason Sullinger (F Ohio State)
Austin Rivers (PG Duke
Perry Jones III (F Baylor)
At the moment, I am leaning towards Bradley Beal because he is a well tutored project player who will be solid at the very worst. His potential leans to a super-sub/starting guard role on a contending team and his passing could really help Tyreke out. If Beal is gone I'd have to think hard between Jones III and Terrence Jones to fill in the SF spot.
Well, this viewpoint is useless, because we're going to get the first pick in the lottery anyways.