Ok - so who is this super secret player that I think will be the cream of the 2011 Draft? Well, if I were looking for a College player to pick as an almost "can't miss" prospect, I'd look to a College Coach that has consistently turned out first round NBA prospects - and first rate NBA talent - I'd look to Kentucky and Coach John Vincent Calipari.
Over the years, Calipari has turned out more than a few NBA players; including his entire starting line up from last year: John Wall (1st overall), DeMarcus Cousins (5th), Patrick Patterson (14th), Eric Bledsoe (18th) and Daniel Orton (29th). I've gotta believe that must be some kind of record. Five guys from the same team drafted in the first round? Even the 1991 Michigan Fab-Five team didn't achieve that distinction.
In prior years at Kentucky, Memphis and UMass, Calipari coached Tyreke Evans (4th, 2009 NBA Draft), Derrick Rose (1st, 2008 NBA Draft), Joey Dorsey (33rd, 2008 NBA Draft), Chris Douglas-Roberts (40th, 2008 NBA Draft), and if you go way back, Marcus Camby (2nd, 1996 NBA Draft). Calipari has a real knack for finding first class talent, and bringing the best out of that talent, even if he has that player for only one year.
This year, Calipari has recruited another crop of blue chip Freshmen. Super Point Guard Brandon Knight (the top College PG prospect in the Country), 6-foot 11-inch, 272-pound Center Enes Kanter from Turkey (Both Rivals.com and Scout.com rated Kanter as a five-star prospect, the highest possible rating), Doron Lamb (High School All-American shooting guard); and possibly his best recruit this year: Terrence Jones; My choice for best player in the 2011 NBA Draft.
More after the jump.
As you watch this video, imagine Terrence Jones as a Small Forward in the NBA. Incredible ball handling skills. Good athleticism. Versatile scorer.
Terrence Jones (SF/PF) 18 years old. 6'8"; 220 lbs. Kentucky, Freshman
Stats after 7 games (32 minutes per game): 19 points (46% shooting, 56% TS%), 9.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 2.3 blocks
Draft projection - Most mock drafts have Terrence Jones listed anywhere from pick 3 to 8 in the first round. I have him as #1.
It may seem premature to declare that Terrence Jones will be the best player drafted in 2011; even before he's declared for the draft and even before he's played in more than a handful of College games; but I've been that impressed with his play early in this College season. He plays with a confidence and aggressiveness that belies his age. Physically, he has the size, length and quickness for the prototypical NBA Small Forward. At Kentucky, he mainly plays PF, but his shooting touch, quickness, and the ability to play perimeter defense will most assuredly mark him as a Small Forward in the NBA. None of the mock drafts I've seen list Jones higher than 3 on their draft boards, but if he continues to play like he has, he will move up. You heard it here first folks.... Terrence Jones is the best draft prospect for 2011.
As for physical attributes, Jones is 6'8" with an impressive 7'3" wingspan and 8'10" standing reach. He's a lefty with an explosive first step. Very quick for his size, he should have no trouble guarding even the quickest NBA small forwards. With his quickness and size, he can just as easily switch off on any player from PG's to Power Forwards. He's a good athlete, but not what I would call "elite". Certainly not in the same league with, say, Perry Jones; but plenty athletic enough to star in the NBA.
His cousins, Salim and Damon Stoudamire, both have played in the NBA; and both have talked to him about what it takes to make it to the NBA. The hard work and dedication required not just to make it, but to stay in the League. Jones seems to have taken those talks to heart, as every article I've read about him talks about his incredible work ethic, that he's coach-able, and the fact that he's a good teammate, a good person and a smart basketball player. He plays hard on both ends of the court. Occasionally, when things are not going well, he gets down on himself. He never lets up on his effort, but sometimes he looses focus and you can see his frustration. Veterans at the next level might be able to use that against him.
Despite being a Freshman, Jones' offensive game looks very polished. He scores in a variety of ways and is very versatile. He can score in transition on thundering dunks. He can score in the mid-range. He has a number of nifty post moves, including a baby hook that he can hit with either hand. He's got an extremely quick first step, so opponents that play too close are usually looking at his back as he heads to the rim. His dominant hand is his left, but he can use his right hand at the rim, and has a nice little floater he can hit with either hand. He's only pulled out that floater a few times in games, but it will be a fabulous weapon in the NBA. Because of his explosive first step, and his incredible ball handling skills, Jones is especially good at getting to the rim on drives. Once there he's a very good finisher at the rim, where he usually initiates contact and draws quite a few fouls. He gets to the Free Throw line at a very high rate (10.3 attempts per 40 minutes); the problem is that he only shoots 55% once he gets there.
As a matter of fact, perhaps his most impressive skill is his ball handling. He handles the basketball like a guard - with sometimes breathtakingly advanced moves. He has displayed an array of behind the back, between the legs, cross overs, spins, hesitations, and other advanced moves that you just don't see from guys that are 6'8" - at least we don't those kind of ball handling skills from a guy that big come out in every draft. And these are not herky-jerky moves.... but rather they are smooth, silky and deadly to any opponent playing flat footed. He does tend to over dribble occasionally.
Despite handling the ball quite a bit, and using a lot of Kentucky's possessions, Jones doesn't turn the ball over excessively. That's due partly to his incredible handle, but also because he plays smart basketball. He rarely forces anything, and when needed, he makes the right pass at the right time. He's especially good when he's double teamed in the post, hitting cutters and passing out to open teammates at the 3-point line. He's an unselfish player, a very good passer, and has excellent floor vision; so it's not surprising that he's averaging over 2 assists per game. Actually he's such a good passer that I'm surprised that he's not averaging more assists.
That brings us to his jump shot, which is definitely a work in progress. Don't get me wrong, Jones is a good shooter, and has good touch on his shot, especially from mid-range. He hits a good percentage from the field, and is a good catch-and-shoot player; however, he's not as good a shooter off the dribble. He needs to work on his shot selection, as he sometimes takes ill-advised shots. As for his mechanics, he gets good elevation, has a quick and high release, a good follow through, and usually squares his shoulders; but there's a hitch in his shot that will have to be fixed if he is to become anything other than just a "good" shooter. That hitch seems to be more pronounced the further away from the basket he shoots. Even so, his shooting percentages are not terrible (46% from the field, 37% from 3); but his 3-point shooting should be much better and more consistent in the NBA when he fixes that flaw in his mechanics.
Jones has all the tools to be a good perimeter defender at the next level. His height, length, quickness and athleticism should translate well. He's extremely competitive and plays hard on every play. That said, he sometimes gets beat back door when he turns his head, or gets caught watching the guard on a pick-and-roll. Experience should help alleviate those instances. Jones is strong, and is competent guarding bigger players in the post. Due to his length, and his activity level, he's excellent at contesting shots , even by bigger players in the paint.
Jones is very good on the boards, and is particularly good on the offensive glass where his athleticism and length lead to some spectacular put-backs. The most important thing is that he seems to put forth maximum effort on the defensive end of the floor, rarely, if ever taking a play off. He's also good coming from the weak side to block shots (3.0 per 40 minutes). On the interior he can be pushed around by bigger, stronger players because he lacks the bulk and leverage needed to hold his ground. Even so, because of his length, he still contests shots in the paint.
On the perimeter, Jones shows a good defensive stance, with knees bent, arms extended. He displays good footwork and excellent quickness and has mostly been able to stay in front of his opponent in one-on-one situations. He can switch off on guards and still stay in front of them. He contests shots on the shooting hand side, something that is usually not taught until a player reaches the Professional level.
THE GAMES I'VE WATCHED:
Against Oklahoma in the Maui Invitational, Jones ended up with 29 points, 13 rebounds, four blocked shots and three assists. His most impressive sequence came with the game still close (68-63), and about a minute left. Showing excellent closing quickness, he blocked a 3-point attempt that could have brought the Sooners to within two points, then stole the ball for a breakaway dunk that sealed the victory for the Cats. So, ok, Oklahoma is in the middle of a rebuilding year - and they're not ranked.... but Jones was still the best player on the court.
Then there was the game against the (at the time) No. 17 Washington Huskies. Washington IS a very good team. As a sub-plot to this affair, during the recruitment process, Terrence Jones had originally announced he was heading to Washington to play for the Huskies. A month later, he changed his mind and signed to play with Kentucky. During the game a very vocal group of Husky fans kept chanting "liar, liar" every time Jones touched the ball. You could tell that it affected Jones by the way he played - I could clearly hear the chants over the television - so I'm sure he heard them too. He seemed overly aggressive early in the game, missing several shots, including two lay ups. But he eventually calmed down, went to work on the boards and played exceptional defense. His offense eventually came around in the second half, as he started going hard to the hole - drawing tons of fouls on the Huskies interior players, and getting to the free throw line seven times, making 8 of 14. He ended up with 16 points, 17 rebounds, 4 blocks and 2 assists.
( Funny note about the game. In the first half, you could clearly hear the chants of "liar, liar" .... but ESPN must have done something to the sound because in the second half, although I could still hear some kind of chant, but the audio quality was different and I couldn't really make out the words clearly. It was more like a droning sound, with the pitch going up and down. Just an amusing little note about the "World Wide Leader" )
Against Connecticut in the Maui Invitational finals - Jones was again terrific, and looked like the best player on the court when he was actually on the court. He got off to a great start, soaring in for a slam over two opponents the first time he touched the ball. He scored Kentucky’s first 10 points, but picked up his second foul with just over 9 minutes left in the half. He spend the rest of the first half on the bench (with 2 fouls, really Calipari?) - while UConn built up a sizeable lead. With Jones on the bench, UConn went on a 21-2 run to close the half - as no one on the Wildcats could make a shot. Kentucky tried to make a run in the second half behind Jones' 14 points, but the lead was too large, and UConn was too tough to overcome. Jones ended up with 24 points including 4-4 from the 3-point line and 8-9 from the Free Throw line, 4 rebounds, 2 steals and 2 blocks. Meanwhile, his Kentucky Wildcats lost the game... I think that loss should be attributed to Calipari, because he put his best player on the bench for 11 minutes while the other team built up an insurmountable lead.
Size for position
Mature, well rounded game
Excellent ball handler
Competitive and intense
High activity level
Unorthodox jump shot
In conclusion I've been really impressed by Terrence Jones. Some articles compare him to Lamar Odom (with better ball handling), or a cross between Dwight Howard and Kevin Durant (I personally don't see it). All I know is that this Freshman has dominated every game I've watched, and is putting up efficient and productive numbers. Beyond the numbers, he has shown a well rounded game that is usually not found in a player so young. He rebounds. He shoots. He blocks shots. He scores in a variety of ways. He defends. He passes. He does just about everything - and he has been really fun to watch.
Here's hoping the Wizards get a chance to draft him.
UPDATE: I had this article written before the North Carolina game. Terrence Jones had a terrible game against the Tar Heels. In that game, UNC's big front line seemed to give Jones problems. He never really got his jump shot on track - and the Tar Heel defenders just played off him daring him to shoot. He went 0-7 in the second half in his poorest showing so far this year. His effort level never really wavered, and he was intense on defense; but I could tell by the end of the game he was frustrated. That's probably his biggest weakness. The maturity part of the game. He is such an intense player that when things don't go well, he gets frustrated and the bad things tend to snow ball.
I'm assuming that game is the exception - so he's still my #1.
More Terrence Jones video. In this one, you can see his ball handling skills, his vision and passing - and also his funky jump shot.
And even more video - Lots of dunks and blocks (of course)... but some sick ball handling and ...................
Dare I say it? Magic-like passing.