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NBA Draft 2012 Prospect Profile: Insight On Terrence Jones' Development From SB Nation's A Sea Of Blue

As Sam Amick of mentioned last night, Kentucky Wildcats sophomore forward Terrence Jones will arrive at his workout for the Golden State Warriors today with his NBA Draft stock rising.

Amick reports that both the Warriors and Sacramento Kings (who hold the fifth pick in the 2012 NBA Draft) might have interest in Jones and ESPN's Chad Ford projected the Warriors to select Jones with the 7th pick in his latest mock draft. Both essentially support last week's suggestion by Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News that the Warriors would lean toward Jones if given the choice. Adding to the intrigue, DraftExpress reports that Jones' measurements from the recently-completed NBA Draft combine (6'8.25 without shoes, 7'2.25 wingspan, 252 pounds) make him unique for a young athletic power forward with his closest comparison being "Juwon Howard circa 1994."

Nevertheless, none of the positive buzz managed to help analysts or scouts establish a consensus about what type of NBA player Jones might become, according to Jeff Goodman of College Basketball Insider.

6) The enigma of Terrence Jones - There isn't a player in this draft with more varying opinions than Kentucky's sophomore forward. Some love him -- and other NBA guys say they wouldn't touch him in the lottery. He's certainly worked on his image since helping Kentucky win the national title in early April, but his body language in Chicago will be evaluated by nearly everyone in the gym.

The problem is not necessarily that people believe that Jones somehow lacks ability, but moreso that his considerable gifts don't always have the impact on games that people might have expected when he arrived in Lexington as a highly-touted freshman. And really, that was a noteworthy concern even among those that saw Jones in high school.

Similar to what Kevin Pelton of Basketball Prospectus observed two years ago, what I took away from watching Jones play at the 2010 King Holiday Hoopfest at the University of Washington was a surprising lack of energy; there were times when he just seemed to coast yet still managed to show this remarkable ability to make positive plays whenever he felt like it. Regardless of whether you consider that "loafing" or "conserving energy", he undeniably had the ability to compete at the next level.

When I recently started to turn my attention to potential lottery prospects for the Warriors, I realized that as a Huskies fan my feelings about Jones were still colored strongly by that single performance as well as his decision to break his commitment to UW that resulted in him ending up at Kentucky in the first place. Without delving into the bizarre way in which people scrutinize the decisions of 18-year-old athletes (as if we assume they won't act like 18-year-olds when making decisions), suffice it to say that I'm perfectly aware that it's sort of unreasonable to judge the merits of a NBA draft prospect by the extent to which he disappointed a particular college fan base.

It was the combination of those personal feelings surrounding Jones and the varying opinions from more objective individuals that led me to contact Glenn Logan of SB Nation's Kentucky Wildcats site A Sea Of Blue with a few questions about his team's departing star. While Logan might not have an extensive track record in projecting the success of NBA draft picks, a brief search of the the site's archives reveals probably some of the most thoughtful and substantive analysis of Jones' development as a basketball player during his two years playing NCAA basketball, which culminated in winning the 2012 National Championship.

We will have more analysis of draft prospects as the draft approaches, but while we continue to discuss the various opinions of Jones - and perhaps even reconsider our own thoughts - Logan's observations might be worthy of consideration.

The Questions

GSoM: Aside from winning a national title, what personal benefit did Jones get from staying in school for his sophomore year? What, if any, development did Jones show in his second year?

Glenn Logan: There were several major benefits that Jones achieved from coming back. In fact, the Jones who will be entering the draft this year is a vastly superior and vastly more ready player than the one who finished the 2010-11 season. Here are the major growth areas:

  1. Right hand. As you know, Jones is left-handed, and he was absolutely unable to use his right hand last year for anything but an occasional dribble. This year, Jones turned his right hand from a weakness into a strength. By the end of the year, he was crossing over to the right and dunking on defenders, something that was impossible for him last year. Last year, all you had to do was guard Jones' strong hand and you could take him right out of the game offensively. This year, he could kill you with it.
  2. Strength. Jones put on about 10 pounds of muscle in the off season, and his body matured significantly. He is a much stronger, more confident player now than he was last year.
  3. Basketball maturity. Jones was a more selfish, more inwardly-focused player last year. This year, he learned that greatness in basketball is only earned through teamwork, and trusting your teammates. It has made him a different player.

GSoM: After coach Calipari's profanity-laced exchange with Jones last year, you suggested that Jones is selfish and wrote, "...Terrence Jones becomes the place where possessions go to die." Draft Express wrote that it seemed that Calipari might have reduced Jones' role after that incident.

How might your perception of Jones have changed between then and now?

GL: Late in last season, Jones became ineffective primarily because he was so left-handed that he became easy to guard. Once people learned that Jones could not use his right hand, almost anyone could guard him. That's why possessions were dying in his left hand, and why Calipari made Josh Harrellson the primary pick-and-roll option with Brandon Knight rather than Jones as had been the case earlier in the year.

This year, Jones did everything Calipari asked him to do -- bulked up, got stronger, got better and turned his weaknesses into strengths. Calipari used him primarily as a power forward, but also allowed him the freedom to shoot from the perimeter when he was open, a skill that is undervalued in Jones and that he is better at than many think.

Jones became the player that Calipari imagined this year, a major threat whenever he touched the ball, but also a guy who would share first and try to dominate second. It was, in my view, transformational. Jones gets far less of the spotlight than Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis, but he is more skilled than MKG and has a much more NBA-ready body than Davis.

Not only that, Jones was absolutely the best defender on this Kentucky team from top to bottom, if you don't consider Davis' absurd shot-blocking. He defended his position better than any other player on the team, and did it whether he was having a good offensive game or not. This is another area that is undervalued in Jones -- his commitment to defense. He wasn't as versatile as MKG, but if you put him on a guy his size, he was terrific.

GSoM: A major critique of Jones has been that he disappears from games or struggles to stay motivated. But a point you made back in January of this season is that Jones might have had a tendency to over-think the game a bit. Might the over-thinking problem explain the substance of that criticism and perhaps why he came on in the tournament or are these two distinct, though perhaps connected, issues?

GL: I think honestly that Jones is one of those players that needs constant external motivation. Unlike MKG, Jones needs to be pushed a bit and isn't a leader in a broadly understood sense. I do think Jones has a tendency to allow occasional offensive mistakes to get into his head, but he never let that affect his defense, to his great credit.

Jones needs to develop a case of selective amnesia. When he makes a bad play, he needs to learn to forget about it. Nobody was better at that than Brandon Knight, and if Jones can ever develop that kind of confidence, he could wind up a genuine star. He's that talented, but he also lacks the mental discipline and maturity to exploit it fully.

GSoM: The biggest question for the Warriors might be whether Jones can play small forward in the pros. Kawakami writes that, "....the Warriors will want to see Jones in workouts with the true small forwards -- Perry Jones III and Barnes, in particular. If Terrence Jones can run and shoot with them, I would think it's likely the Warriors will select him." How would you guess that Jones will compare to those two as a NBA small forward prospect in the workout setting, particularly given that you saw Baylor in the tournament?

GL: Terrence Jones is likely not to be the sort of outside shooting threat that Barnes is, and he will not quite reach the level of overall athleticism that Perry Jones III has.

With that said, however, Jones can shoot the ball fairly reliably from outside, can probably learn to make the NBA three, and can run the floor as well as either of those players. But one other thing he can do that neither of those two can is handle the basketball. Jones handles the ball like a guard, far better than even Barnes, and I mean that in the most complete possible sense. Off the dribble, he will be vastly superior to either Barnes or Jones III because of his combination of quickness and ballhandling. Also, neither Jones III nor Barnes have developed their off hand as well.

At Kentucky, he would start on the perimeter and just abuse his man off the dribble from the 4 spot. He is big enough and strong enough to play the NBA 4 for long stretches, but as a 3 he would overpower many of them in the post and still have the kind of handles and quickness that would bedevil all but the very quickest NBA 3's.

What are your thoughts about Jones? As usual, leave your thoughts in the comments but also vote in the poll below, which is identical to the poll from the previous Perry Jones III post just to establish some consistency in gathering opinions about the two.

For far more on Jones and the other Kentucky prospects in the 2012 NBA Draft, check out SBN's A Sea of Blue.

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