After a strong freshman season in 2010-11, Terrence Jones deferred entering the 2011 draft and returned for his sophomore season, which culminated in a Kentucky Wildcats National Championship. After being voted a preseason All-American, Jones failed to live up to his lofty preseason expectations, but was able to put together a solid sophomore campaign, most notably shining as a key contributor during the intense pressures of the NCAA Tournament. Despite being projected as a potential top-5 selection in last year’s draft, Jones could go anywhere from picks 5-20 depending on his performance in individual workouts.
A big-bodied “tweener” forward, Jones possesses a remarkable resemblance to Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks. Standing at 6-foot-9 and weighing in at 252 pounds with a big frame, he possesses a tremendous wingspan of 7’2.25” and an impressive vertical leap. Jones has a very rare combination of size, strength, explosiveness and foot agility that stretches opposing defenses while making him a matchup nightmare. With the ability to play against 3s, 4s, and even smaller 5s, he truly is a dynamic player on both ends of the court. However, Jones has not been without critics and received negative press for his lack of concentration on the court at times and immaturity when confronted with adversity during his short collegiate tenure.
Jones is at his best offensively when utilizing his unique combination of strength and finesse. He has a clear-cut drive first mentality and loves getting to the hoop through traffic. He uses an explosive first step in order to blow past college frontcourts, and he does a very good job of keeping defenders off balance on the low block. Around the rim, Jones does not bow away contact, gaining leverage on his opponent and going strong to the hoop, leading to his solid rate of getting to the foul line. He is very definite with his dribbles when backing down opponents and is very efficient at working for high percentages scoring looks. Perhaps one of his greatest attributes is his low center of gravity, which helps him in nearly all facets of his game. With his back to the basket he does not hesitate on his moves, using varying combinations of shot fakes and jab steps to get to the basket. He likes to keep his body moving with his back to the basket so as to keep his defender off balance, and he is able to gain enough space and time to get a quick shot up in the lane. Jones not only is an adept scorer with his back to the basket, but also when faced up with his opponent. A southpaw, Jones has grown very fond of the left-handed hook shot, but has displayed an ability to finish with his right hand while using the glass effectively from all angles surrounding the hoop. He is an extremely talented finisher above the rim and displays a great knack for finishing through contact, making him a viable alley-oop threat.
Jones has displayed outstanding growth as a jump shooter and has shown vast improvement since the day he first landed with the Wildcats. While he is far from being considered a sharpshooter, he maintains strong shooting mechanics and a very high release point, making it virtually impossible for defenders to get a hand on his shots. He has powerful lower body strength and gets good knee bend on his shots, creating a good, high shot trajectory while getting good rotation on his shots. Depending on the skill set of his defender, Jones can be a very effective shooter off of the dribble. When matched up against quicker forwards, he can encounter difficulty in creating ample space to comfortably get shots up, and clearly experiences more success shooting off the dribble when matched up with bigger, slower defenders. Jones’ ability to knock down three-pointers proved to be vital to his success on the offensive end, and opponents were forced to close out on him hard, giving him the ability to blow past defenders and get to the rim. At the next level, Jones is going to need to continue to be a threat when shooting from beyond the arc in order to reach his offensive potential. Shooting an impressive 50% from the field, he improved upon his shot selection from his freshman season and became a smarter shooter. Jones is the most comfortable when shooting spotted-up, and does a very good job of rotating to the open slot and putting himself in position to get open looks from the perimeter. Much of his inconsistencies as a shooter can be attributed to his lack of composure on the court at times, as he could take himself mentally out of games in the face of short-term struggles. For him to be a true threat as a scorer, Jones will need to develop a shooter’s short-term memory and not mope on past plays.
Jones was one of many great ball handlers for Kentucky in 2011-12, and is very comfortable dribbling in the open court. He is very creative with the ball in his hands and uses an excellent crossover to gain separation from his defender. He is able to effectively shift his weight and change direction with the ball in his hands and displays great lateral quickness for a player of his size. He uses long strides and good agility to explode through openings in the defense, all the while scanning the floor and not forcing plays. He keeps the ball low and tight to his body and uses his length to fend off defenders from stealing the ball from him. Jones is a very intelligent and efficient player and does not hesitate on his dribbles. He really seeks out contact and loves to attack the rim with a player on his back, but at times he can get too sucked in to his individual matchup battles and forgets about his teammates. His low center of gravity keeps his weight balanced and he has improved at not committing offensive fouls. As he clearly favors operating with his left hand, Jones will need to improve dribbling with his off hand in order to keep his defenders honest.
Surrounded by stars on Kentucky, Jones was a fairly unselfish player and displayed good court vision. Although he did not rack up a ton of assists, he was very smart about finding open teammates when encountering traps and double teams. Due to his size and capability as a dribbler, Jones has the capacity to become an impact passer as either a SF or a PF. His versatility on offense demands the attention of defenses, and he has all the tools to consistently find his teammates with good scoring opportunities. Jones is a good outlet passer and does a good job of not broadcasting his passes to the defense.
Jones was a very good rebounder during his two college seasons, and has an excellent motor on the offensive and defensive glass. He reads shot trajectories well and finds and maintains good positions to rebound on both ends of the court. He demonstrates great pursuit of loose balls and plays with a lot of heart and passion. He takes pride in getting the better of his individual matchups and uses his strength and body positioning to keep opponents off the glass.
Jones was a major contributor to Kentucky’s dominance as a team on the defensive end, and he had success guarding perimeter as well as interior players. He does a good job of keeping his body in front of his opponents and has quick hands and feet. He encounters problems when defending quicker wing players, as his vertical quickness is more suited to defending PFs. His great length and athleticism, paired with his high basketball IQ, made him an excellent shot blocker in college, with his strength making him a tough object to move in the paint. He anticipates shots well and does a good job of not biting at ball fakes. His impact on defense in the NBA will have a lot to do with which position he ends up playing. In order to be a solid perimeter defender, he will need to shed a few pounds and improve his foot speed, but may need to bulk up if his role lies on the low block.
Terrence Jones has one of the most unique skill sets in the 2012 NBA Draft, and in order to maximize his potential as a player it would be to his greatest benefit to land with a team that is in need of both perimeter and interior offense. Because of his potential to become a very good perimeter shooter, it is in Jones’ best interest to refine and model his game after Josh Smith, as the two players have incredible similarities from almost all standpoints. Since the NBA is an extremely mentally demanding environment, Jones needs to mature as a person and learn to not dwell on his mistakes, for it is through failure that he will develop as a player. If he applies himself properly, Jones could end up being a primary contributor to a good NBA squad.
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Photo Credits: Orlando Sentinel