The Oklahoman’s staff writers discuss three topics surrounding Perry Jones III.
What about Perry Jones III this season left the biggest impression on you, for better or worse?
Darnell Mayberry, Thunder beat writer: His dunks in the layup line. Seriously. The dude put on a show before almost every game, throwing down jams that were so insane his teammates often shook their heads in disbelief. It made me ask two questions: will we soon see PJ3 in a dunk contest (he told me this season that he wants to be in next year’s), and why doesn’t that jaw-dropping athleticism carry over in games? The second question obviously is more significant. We know Jones has amazing athletic ability. But after two years, we’re still waiting on it to turn into something. I’m beginning to wonder if it ever will in OKC.
Anthony Slater, Thunder beat writer: Beside those aforementioned layup line dunks — which were ridiculous — I’d go with the improved 3-point shot. Since his days at Baylor, Jones has steadily stretched out his range. And in limited time, he flashed it this season, making 21 of his 66 attempts, a solid conversion rate. And he looks comfortable in those corners, which has become such a crucial shot in the NBA.
Berry Tramel, Columnist: Oh, I suppose his 3-point shot, which was actually decent. I mean, the biggest thing that stands out about Perry Jones is his lack of motor. But that stood out last year in limited play and stood out this year when he got a bigger chance. The guy just doesn’t have a high-speed mode. If he ever did flip the switch, the Thunder would have themselves a ballplayer.
How do you see Jones developing, and where do you see him fitting in next season?
Mayberry: Oddly enough, while we’re all looking for the Thunder to go out and get a “3-and-D” guy, Jones has the potential to develop nicely into just that. He’s got the size, length and quickness, and he flaunted a much improved shooting stroke this season, especially from the corners. If he can supply those things with regularity, I don’t think it’s a stretch to think Jones can be a fixture in the nine-man rotation, perhaps even someone who starts stealing minutes from Nick Collison next season. But it’ll take a lot of hard work.
Slater: In Oklahoma City, whenever he gets on the court, his future is as a 3 and D guy. Stand in the corners, knock down the open look when they sag off and then guard a variety of positions. It’s a valuable skill set for Scott Brooks to have in his toolbox. But it’s gotta be a little tough for Jones. He’d likely develop a lot quicker on a rebuilding team, where he’d have the freedom to play 30 minutes a night and explore that athleticism. In OKC, behind Kevin Durant, that’ll never happen.
Tramel: I think he’ll be better, marginally, and probably will contribute even more than he did this season. But I still see him as the 10th or 11th man. He looks like a rotational player in Orlando or Charlotte to me.
Name the one area that Jones needs to improve most next season?
Mayberry: Confidence. I’m not sure if Jones even realizes that he belongs. Not just in the NBA but on the floor. I have no doubt that he wants minutes. Who doesn’t? But when he gets his chances it seems as if Jones thinks he must take a backseat. While that’s true to an extent for everyone not named Durant or Westbrook, Jones takes it so far that he doesn’t seem sure of himself when competing. Like he’s second-guessing everything he’s doing. Cut that out and let his natural gifts take over and Jones can be a real threat.
Slater: That lack of a motor is the big issue. He always looks a bit shy and timid out there, like he’s embarrassed with how it might look if he went all out. Many guys never overcome that. It’s a personality trait. But over time, with maturity and experience, some do. He’s only 22 and has all the physical tools. His improvement must be mental.
Tramel: I guess defense. I mean, the energy isn’t going to change, so might as well make it technical. Scotty Brooks keeps saying Jones is a versatile defender. I guess that means he’s mediocre at a variety of spots.