Damian Jones has been patient. And in all likelihood, his patience will be rewarded. When the Golden State Warriors selected Jones with the final first round pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the hope was that he would contribute at the center position immediately.
That was before they signed David West and before JaVale McGee, a would-be camp invite, would prove to be a quality NBA player.
Jones’ rookie season came and went, and he found himself appearing in a mere 10 games, playing just 85 minutes. Fast forward a year, and new obstacles stood between Jones and playing time: Namely the addition of Jordan Bell and the emergence of Kevon Looney. In his second year, Jones received only four more minutes than in his rookie campaign.
And so it goes that Jones enters his third season in the association, with all of 206 NBA minutes to his name (counting playoffs).
If you’re ready to close the book on Jones, don’t. As Looney proved a year ago, judging young bigs after two years is a risky game.
At 7’0”, Jones is the biggest player on the Warriors. His athleticism hasn’t been displayed much to Warriors fans, but it is something special. And he’s only a few months older than Patrick McCaw.
His story is far from being told.
And after spending the bulk of the last two seasons in the G League, Jones is likely to get his fair share of NBA minutes this season. The Warriors will start the year with DeMarcus Cousins sidelined while he rehabs an Achilles injury. West is gone, as is Zaza Pachulia. Currently, the center position is only Jones, Bell, Looney, and the stretch-four that is Jonas Jerebko.
Add to it that Golden State will be seeking rest and slow-playing things, and it’s very safe to say that Jones will get his chance to prove that the last two years have been spent learning, growing and developing.
Since we’ve really only seen Jones in limited garbage time minutes, it’s easy to think there’s nothing there. But it’s fairly obvious that the Warriors feel differently. At a Summer League practice, I asked assistant coach Willie Green what the team is looking for from Jones as he continues to develop.
Willie Green on what the team is looking for from Damian Jones this summer: pic.twitter.com/Ptcx4Nv4SX— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) July 7, 2018
“Damian’s a big strong kid that can run and jump out of the gym,” Green explained. “So we want to see him blocking shots, rebounding, running the floor hard, setting screens and diving and catching lobs. Bringing that type of energy to our team.”
Summer League was supposed to be an opportunity for Jones to display some of those improvements, but unfortunately his time was limited after suffering a mild knee injury. However, that didn’t stop the team from admiring what he displayed in four contests.
The day after Jones’ final summer game, I asked assistant coach Jarron Collins about Jones’ trajectory.
Damian Jones may be done for Summer League, but we can still check in on how Jarron Collins feels about the young center’s development: pic.twitter.com/v7fSFZs5Ey— Golden State of Mind (@unstoppablebaby) July 13, 2018
“Continue to play with a level of confidence that he’s been showing signs of, finish around the basket,” Collins said about what Jones needs to work on. “And then of course he has the ability to make the 15-foot jump shot . . . but just his overall development, his overall confidence and familiarity with our offense and defensive schemes will benefit him in the summer.”
It’s no secret what Jones brings to the Warriors. His combination of size and athleticism doesn’t come around every day, and he’s show impressive grace and touch around the rim.
He may not develop further; that happens more often than not with players drafted at his position. But if you’re thinking of writing him off after a few hundred minutes, think again; Jones still has all the faith in the world, and the faith of the coaching staff behind him.
His time just may be coming.
How would you grade Damian Jones’ 2017-18 season?
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