SALT LAKE CITY — It's true what they say about Perry Jones III.
He has a tendency to get lost on the court.
There are times when the big man out of Baylor camps out in the corner on offense, going multiple possessions without so much as touching the ball. On other trips, the 28th overall pick who was dubbed the steal of the draft is reduced to a screen setter.
But even as a regular afterthought, the rookie finds a way to make an impact. Though criticized for being passive, Jones, at least through two exhibition games, still has been productive.
He scored a team-high 14 points in 30 minutes on Friday night in the Thunder's 97-81 loss at Utah. Jones made six of 11 shots and flaunted his freakish versatility, knocking down two of his four 3-pointers at one end while defending multiple positions at the other.
“That's his strength,” said Thunder coach Scott Brooks. “He is a versatile guy. He can score inside. He can score outside. He has a good feel for the game.”
Already, you can picture how perfectly Jones fits in.
Jones' willingness to be the third or even fourth option offensively meshes flawlessly on a franchise that has plenty of firepower in Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden. He can be aggressive without being the center of attention and dialed in but not dominant.
“He loves to do the little things,” Brooks said.
The fundamentals in Jones' game are what stand out most. Even as a rookie with a mere two preseason games under his belt, Jones has shown flashes of a foundation that has plenty of room for growth.
On one possession, he trails a break and walks smoothly into a 3-pointer from the top of the arc. On another, he catches it on the wing, jabs to his right before going into a textbook two-dribble pull-up at the left elbow.
Not bad for a youngster who's still figuring out where he belongs in the offense.
“To be honest, I don't know,” Jones said when asked where he sees himself fitting in. “We've got a lot of guys that can score. But if I'm ever open and my teammates give me the ball and feel like I can shoot the shot, I'm going to shoot it for them.”
Brooks, however, isn't quite sold on Jones jacking up so many 3s.
“He's definitely working on that,” Brooks said. “We like guys that can spread the floor. But you don't want that to be his bread and butter shot because if you live on that line, that line is hard to (hit from) consistently for 82 games. But his versatility is what we like. He's able to get buckets around the basket, tip-ins, drop-off passes and from running the floor. But definitely, if he can make that shot that's an added bonus.”
Study how Jones defends and you'll come away just as impressed.
Against the Jazz, there was a possession where Jones closed out to Marvin Williams on the wing, impeded his drive, forced a pass and then rotated out to Gordon Hayward as soon as Williams dished it off.
Those six seconds showed why Jones lists his feet as his best asset.
“That's what coach expects out of everybody on the team,” Jones said. “We're just trying our best to make the extra effort on defense. That's what he wants us to do, so that's what I've been doing.”
The biggest messages Jones said his teammates are trying to impress upon him during the games is staying aggressive, shooting the open shot and spacing out.
So far, the rookie hasn't had a problem doing any of the three — particularly the part about aggression.
“Once again, the motor question,” said Reggie Jackson, who started in place of a resting Russell Westbrook. “I don't really know who started that, but the kid plays hard.”