The GSoM community is ranking theplayers, but we're doing it "Survivor" style, eliminating one player per poll, until we've decided who is the most valuable to the Warriors in 2017 and beyond.
We're referring to the players as "assets." As such, voters are reminded to consider age, salary, injuries, production, potential and overall value to the team (as either a player or trade piece) when making their selections. Basically, you're part of the front office, and it's time to cut the next player.
The Warriors took Damian Jones with the last pick in the 2016 Draft. Jones was immediately compared to and slotted in as the heir to the backup five spot for years to come, vacated by his fellow Vanderbilt alumni Festus Ezeli. On draft night, the two players were compared instantly: big bodied, raw centers with the tools to be NBA stars. Both players fill up the Vanderbilt stats history books: #1 (Ezeli) & #2 (Jones) in career blocks, #4 (Jones) & #9 (Ezeli) in career rebounds. Both players ironically were taken in the exact same draft spot, just four years later.
Why would a large body with physical tools fall to the bottom of the first round? As the NBA signs back up centers for $10M+ per season, you would think that guys like these would be commodities jumped on immediately. To answer this, let's take a look at both guy's DraftExpress report:
Weaknesses: Not the most glamorous prospect, lacking great athleticism or upside ... Ezeli is not an adept shot-creator, scoring primarily on tips or dump-offs from a penetrating guard ... Non-existent face-up game or jump shot ... Prone to foul trouble... Doesn't have the softest hands, resulting in too many turnovers for the amount he's used... Never shot better than 64% from the free throw line... Generally inconsistent on a game to game basis...
Weaknesses: Sustaining a high level of intensity and focus is his biggest obstacle ... Jones laid back attitude often manifests itself on the court, and his inability to consistently play to his ability is a concern ... He often disappears from games and currently lacks the tenacity needed to be a dominant presence inside ... Post skills have not progressed as expected and still need work ... He gets to the line at a decent rate, but struggled to convert once there ... Regressed as a free throw shooter last year, connecting on a college career-low 54% from the stripe ... Commits a fair amount of turnovers with a lack of significant assist numbers ... Not particularly adept at passing out of double-teams ...
Ezeli and Jones appear to be the same player, and in a way that is why the Warriors made this move. From Ezeli, Golden State got years of defensive presence, steady improvement on the offensive end, and an arc of maturity that lead to a productive NBA player with a high-end motor. Ezeli would never be confused with an offensive asset (we can all say this with confidence), but could put back in a dunk if needed.
If Jones could develop into the exact same player — and in theory he has four years to do it — the front office would be ecstatic. And so will the salary cap: you have essentially replaced a matching talent on a second contract with his skill-set equal on a rookie deal. Does Jones have the maturity to become a better offensive player than Ezeli? His highlights show a much more polished post game with a nice right hand and can even hit a jumper from 15-18 feet.
His low bar for the season would be staying in the D-League once his pec heals. He had surgery back in June with a six-month recovery period, putting him back on the floor around November or December. Much like Kevon Looney last year, he will need floor time to get use to the NBA speed and officiating, and will probably be a fixture for Santa Cruz for awhile.
His high bar for the season would be appearing on the bench around the new year, getting some play in garbage time in Oakland. This would probably be the product of injuries to the front court in some way, a decision to move on from an existing center on the roster, or the chance that he comes in and immediately produces. Because of his skill set, he doesn't need to refine his shooting game or perfect his ball handing before getting on the floor. If you can play help defense and block shots, there might be immediate minutes available for you on this Warriors roster.
Right now, Jones ranks higher than others on the roster as an asset because of his inexpensive contract (first year of his rookie deal making just over $1M) and his place as an asset on the roster (a defensive center on a roster lacking rim protection). I get that warm feeling like the front office has another steal on their hands here, just sad that he is not getting playing time either in this last Summer League campaign or even now with training camp in full force. My gut tells me that we won't see him get any substantial NBA minuets this year, but pair him up with Ron Adams, Jarron Collins and the rest of the staff and who knows what you can develop in a short time.
Here's to hoping Jones is a stable on this roster for years to come.