Sam Presti didn’t hide it when he spoke to reporters Thursday night.
“We didn’t enter this draft thinking that Perry Jones would be there at 28 for us,” he said.
Nobody really did. But there Perry Jones III was, largely because of a medical red flag that popped up days before the draft. Jones supposedly has a “meniscus issue.” What does that involve? Will it require surgery? Regardless, Presti said he didn’t have any reservations.
“[We] felt very comfortable making this selection at 28,” he said. “We looked at all the information that we had available, and we wouldn’t have selected him unless we felt comfortable with all the information.”
When you look at Jones, there’s a consensus — seriously lottery talent but some questions about passivity, some questions about health. But the ability is impossible to ignore, which is why the Thunder ignored all the negatives. A versatile 6-11 player that can hover between the 3 and 4, can pass, shoot, rebound, defend and run the floor. He’s been labeled shy on the court, but it’s not that he lacks effort or drive. He just sometimes tends to blend in, seeming a little unsure of how to impact the game. Not the worst negative in the world to have.
The other ticks against him: He’s not a leader, doesn’t take over games, doesn’t really have a position, doesn’t assert himself and might not be star material. Good news though: The Thunder don’t really need a leader, a guy that takes over games, a guy that has a position or a new star. They’re pretty well equipped on those fronts already. If you’re a GM looking for a building block player in the top 15, Jones would’ve been a major risk. He could be the kind of pick that gets you canned. But at 28 and on a team that doesn’t necessarily have to rely on him? That’s ideal.
Entering the draft, the Thunder had some options. Go for a shooter to space the floor and potentially replace Daequan Cook as the specialist in a year. Go for size inside to possibly replace Nazr Mohammed. Go for an international player to stash overseas. Or go for a versatile stretch 4 that might be able to make a sooner-than-later impact.
That’s Perry Jones.
“We won’t pigeonhole him,” assistant GM Troy Weaver said of Jones’ future position. “We think he can play anywhere on the front line. He’s a versatile player. The coaches will handle that. But we see his versatility as a strength.”
Now, will he be in the rotation next season? I wouldn’t expect it. I imagine that will largely hinge on his health and development. He might see a lot of time in Tulsa. The Thunder aren’t afraid to slowly bake a player, letting him grow and mature at his own pace. And there’s no need to necessarily throw Jones into the fire now. The Thunder are deep and talented as is and while any service he could provide would be nice, there’s no rush.
But, he fills a need, has major talent and depending on how things shake out, could potentially find time on the court. I’m already drooling thinking about a lineup of Westbrook, Harden, Durant, Jones and Ibaka. Length, speed, athleticism, length, size, athleticism, speed, length and more length. I don’t know how NBA ready Jones is, but I can imagine if he were, he could’ve been fairly valuable defending Chris Bosh or chasing Shane Batter around on the perimeter in the NBA Finals.
And I don’t mean to get ahead of myself nor be a downer, but if things find themselves too complicated in the future with Serge Ibaka, Jones could potentially be a worthy replacement. At least he has enough talent to possibly be.
I dare you to watch the video at the top and not get excited about him. Granted, any highlight mix makes a guy look awesome and you’d expect his college coach to rave about his ability, but like I said, Jones is a serious talent. Potentially top 10 or even top five material without the medical questions. I’m gushing. I can’t help it.
(Side note: OKC’s summer league team is going to be fun. Reggie Jackson, Lazar Hayward, Latavious Williams, Jones and Cole Aldrich. I can’t wait to watch it from a grainy handheld camera streaming somewhere.)
Jones should fit the culture of the Thunder extremely well. He’s a grounded, humble, mild-mannered kid that has already called Kevin Durant his favorite player. Having him grow and mature in the Thunder program is probably ideal for him. This is an organization that prides itself on development. It’s almost machine-like. For Jones to settle into it — a blank canvas of a player — is perfect.
SAM PRESTI AND TROY WEAVER PART ONE
PRESTI AND WEAVER PART TWO