Year in Review: Terrence Jones
Reflecting upon Terrence Jones' past, present and future following the 2013-14 campaign
Terrence Jones is just 22-years-old. Stew on that for a second prior to contemplating the fact that this NBA neophyte just finished off a season during which he posted a higher Player Efficiency Rating (PER) than such luminaries at the power forward position as Zach Randolph and David West. That’s not to say the University of Kentucky product is better than those prolific and proven low-post behemoths, but rather to serve as a starting point to help illustrate the remarkable progress Jones has made since being selected with the 18th overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft.
Further hammering that home is a reminder that his impressive 2013-14 campaign began with the 6-9 forward registering a grand total of 16 minutes of playing time over the course of the Rockets’ first seven games of the season – the last two of which saw him collect nary a second of action on the floor. Then he entered the starting lineup on the night of November 11, showed off an instant chemistry with Chandler Parsons in transition, started swatting shots from the weak-side on a regular basis, and the Rockets, not coincidentally, rolled off nine wins in their next 11 games. Jones’ ability to produce without needing plays drawn up for him made him an excellent fit alongside Houston’s star attractions, as did his length, athleticism and faculty for running the floor.
Oh sure, it wasn’t all sunshine, roses and rainbows during Jones’ first full season with the big club as he certainly took an occasional ride on the roller coaster that inevitably claims every young player at one point or another. Jones stumbled a bit in February following a lights-out January stretch that saw him average nearly 16 points and 10 rebounds per game. And a brutal matchup against Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge dulled his ability to make more of an impact in the playoffs.
But those are the necessary life lessons and growing pains that come with the territory when one is learning how to make an indelible mark in this league. And they should do little to take the shine off a season that offered so much promise and so many superlatives. To name but a few: Jones’ ranked in the NBA’s 91st percentile as a scorer in transition and 85th percentile when scoring via cuts, according to Synergy Sports, with each showcasing his elite ability to convert at the rim (he finished the season with a sparkling hit rate of 68.6 percent on shots taken within the restricted area). And though he wasn’t used as a post-up threat often, Jones did deliver very efficiently when his number was called in that area as well.
Then there is this small but not insignificant statistical tidbit: En route to helping the Rockets sweep their season series with the San Antonio Spurs, Jones averaged 18 points, 12.5 boards, 1.3 steals and 1 block during Houston’s four games against its I-10 rivals (You may now proceed to continue cursing the fact that the Rockets came up agonizingly short in their efforts to renew acquaintances with San Antonio in the postseason).
One could easily choose any of Jones’ aforementioned monster games against the Spurs for this section and you’d receive no quarrel from this particular corner of Toyota Center. But from the standpoint of pure, beastly unstoppability it’s worth recognizing the former Wildcat’s box score busting night against the Bucks back on January 18. Jones came through with a career-high 36 points on 14-of-12 shooting that evening, adding 11 rebounds, two blocks and a steal for good measure. “He beasted us,” lamented Milwaukee head coach Larry Drew.
THE NEXT STEP
Perhaps the scariest thing about forecasting Jones’ future? He still has so much room for growth and improvement. He’s a good rebounder but not yet a great one, with his work on the defensive glass especially primed for an uptick in overall proficiency and production. His shooting stroke from both the charity stripe and 3-point line most definitely need fine-tuning as well. Jones isn’t likely to ever be a prototypical stretch four, but he’s plenty capable of bumping his accuracy well above the .307 mark he delivered this past season. Jones doesn’t need to be a deadeye marksman; he just needs to be a threat.
More than anything, however, Jones simply requires the sort of refinement that can only come with additional time, experience and a heaping helping of hard work. The more he immerses himself in the subtleties of scheme and strategy, the more he’ll be able to put his considerable athletic gifts to good use.
Jones made the leap toward becoming a good player this year. The next step, of course, is much tougher. It demands a dedication to nuance and a laser-like focus on the fine details. If Jones can master that aspect of the game, another leap will almost certainly follow.