After two seasons, Perry Jones III is still searching.
Searching to find who he is as a player. Searching to find what he does best. Searching to find ways he can bring it with regularity.
“There’s a lot of things I can do on the basketball court, and there’s a lot of things I can do with the ball,” Jones confidently said. “I just got to go out there and find my niche on defense and offense.”
Jones made great strides this season.
He developed a respectable 3-point shot, and he turned himself into a decent defender.
“I’m not satisfied because of my expectations,” Jones said. “I think I got a lot better; just being more consistent, helping the team, especially on both ends of the court. But from here on, I can just get better. And hopefully, next year I can do even more.”
Though he sees himself as a versatile player, Jones mostly wants to improve his defense.
“Want to be able to guard anybody at any time,” he said.
Thunder coach Scott Brooks called Jones the team’s utility defender this season. With great size, length and foot speed, Jones has been labeled the best athlete on the team. But he’s had trouble turning his world-class athleticism into a singular skill.
“Not yet, but that’s something I’ve got to get comfortable with, something that I’ve got to get used to doing the whole time I’m on the court,” Jones said. “That’s a hard task to do. The only person that does that is Russell (Westbrook). Hopefully this summer I can have that mindset.”
Jones knows he needs to locate and return with it in his third season.
It could be all that’s holding him back.
“I have the ability to do things,” Jones said, “but if you have a little doubt or something like that, it’s going to be tougher to do.”
Jones had plenty to be proud of this year, personal victories that he can build on.
After attempting only two 3-pointers last season, missing both, Jones revealed a rhythmic shooting stroke in his second season. He made 22 of 61 3-point tries (36.1 percent) and showed signs of becoming particularly effective from the corners.
“Hopefully if I keep shooting — (if) my shooting’s good — it’ll open up things like driving and attacking the paint,” Jones said. “Also getting other guys open shots. Hopefully it’ll take some of the pressure off Kevin (Durant) and Russ and make their jobs easier.”
Jones appeared in 62 games, seven starts, and logged 764 minutes. A year ago, he appeared in only 38 games, one start, and tallied just 280 minutes. It was a small step but a sign that the coaching staff had grown more comfortable with Jones and trusted him more to contribute.
The biggest show of support came on Jan. 29 at Miami.
“That night, my heart started beating fast when Coach said I was starting at half,” Jones remembered of being named Kendrick Perkins’ replacement and the primary defender on LeBron James. “But he trusted in me, trusted in me that I could do it. Stuff like that, encouragement like that lets me know I can do pretty much anything I put my mind to. Just going out there and actually doing what he asked me to do against one of the best players in the league, I gained confidence.”
But Jones is still searching for his niche, searching for what will keep him on the floor.
He’s hoping to find it this summer but admittedly walked into the offseason unsure of how he’ll look come November.
“I don’t know how this summer is going to actually go,” Jones said. “All I can do is work hard and do the best I can.”